When we think of the word ‘community’, a number of things come to mind; shared green spaces, friendly neighbours, good housing, decent jobs – things that make sharing a local area comfortable, enjoyable and prosperous.
All of these things, however, are underpinned by one common principle – safety. If we don’t feel safe in our shared spaces, our homes or our local areas, then the very fabric of our community begins to fray.
That’s why I’ve always been clear that – for me – tackling crime and antisocial behaviour must always be an absolute priority locally and nationally. It’s why I’ve been so concerned by recent data which shows that, here in the North West, the number of community support officers has been slashed by 47% since 2015, with 2,300 fewer officers on the street. This picture is replicated nationally, with the Government’s bizarre and short-sighted decision to cut 20,000 police officers back in 2010 having serious long-term ramifications.
What these figures mean is that even where there is good work locally, the police are still fighting an uphill battle to get a grip on crime and antisocial behaviour. To make matters worse, this problem extends beyond the police. With prosecutors struggling with huge caseloads and out-of-date systems, the number of criminals actually facing justice has plummeted. Nationally, less than 5% of burglaries are currently solved, and for every 5,000 people who face a violent attack, just 300 of the criminals responsible end up in court.
This is unacceptable. The Government cannot continue to let criminals off while letting victims down. Local people in Tameside rightly expect that when a crime occurs, the perpetrators will be swiftly brought to justice.
So where do the solutions lie? Well, I’ve made my support for Labour’s criminal justice reforms very clear. I want to see 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs back on the beat and a rapid increase in the number of people who can work as Crown Prosecutors.
But this should just be the beginning. Labour has also committed to bringing together a new expert Commission to draft new ways for police forces and prosecutors to work together, cut unnecessary bureaucracy and deliver results for victims.
This work cannot come soon enough. If we continue on this current trajectory, we risk threatening the prosperity of our local communities.
I’ll keep doing everything I can, including working with local law enforcement, to make our communities safer. I sincerely hope that these efforts are matched nationally. If the Government has no intention of doing so, then it should move out of the way and let Labour get on with the job.