One of the themes that was not very evident in the publicity around Priti Patels speech yesterday was that of crime reduction or crime prevention. Sadly the reference to crime reduction only occurred three times in her speech and crime prevention was not mentioned at all. However there is an even more important aspect that lies behind such ideas that also did not get a mention. The reality is that preventing or reducing crime depends on looking far beyond police services for behaviour and skills. Indeed given that this speech was directed at senior Police Officers and also Police and Crime Commissioners, that this second group was not challenged to work with agencies outside of police services to achieve crime reduction or crime prevention was the real problem.
The only part of the speech which touched on Crime Reduction examples was the claim by Patel that people who begin with low level crime like shoplifting will end up by carrying out serious crime “by working together we can tackle the low level offenders before they graduate to carrying knives and weapons and participating in serious crimes. From being shop thieves to knife carriers to carrying knives and weapons and participating in serious crimes.” Whilst this is true in some cases, the fact is that it is ignoring that many serious criminals including those that carry out scams and cyber crimes are never involved in low level crime such as shoplifting. The same is true for many people involved in domestic abuse or paedophile cases. So crime reduction or prevention needs to be better understood by all politicians and particular PCCs and they need to understand that preventing or reducing crime requires them to work with other parts of the public and voluntary sectors. We need provision for youth agencies, for social services, for helping communities to understand how they can support one another. Sadly if this is all delivered onto the doorstep of police services, we will never achieve what is required by all of us including, apparently, Priti Patel. The following paragraph came from her speech and it is very good, providing she can be persuaded and the PCCs to focus on collaborative solutions:
“Operational independence is crucial, but so is ensuring every single force plays their part to the max. This government is prioritising cutting crime, and we’re providing the central vision and challenge to make this happen. Through the National Policing Board and the new Crime and Policing Performance Board, I will set expectations so that we can get the accountability in policing but also so we can drive national policing outcomes that are focused on reducing crime and delivering for the public. As PCCs, you remain locally accountable and set priorities for your areas and that is an important role you all have. But these new outcomes provide national accountability and collective responsibility so that all our communities feel safe. We’re setting out quite a challenge to start with: to reduce murder, serious violence and neighbourhood crime. And the policing board is working assiduously to ensure we work together in achieving this.”