Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Police stations are vanishing while crime increases: spot the problem

New figures from the Home Office show that 227 police stations have closed since May 1997, representing three closures for every month that Labour has been in power.

Rural areas have been hit hardest by the closure programme as services have been centralised in urban areas.

Essex has lost 59, Gloucestershire 23, Nottinghamshire 22, Hampshire 20 and Cumbria 10. Other areas which have seen double-figure closures include Greater Manchester (15), Gwent (10), Lancashire (13), South Wales (22), and South Yorkshire (12).

Police spokesmen argue that the cost of maintaining old and ill-equipped buildings justifies closures. In London and other major cities, police stations may be sold to property developers in order to boost funds.

The closure figures have emerged at a time when crime figures are increasing. Government ministers say the British Crime Survey points to a decline in crime – but the Survey excludes around 12 million crimes a year from its calculations, ranging from murder to shoplifting.

Although smaller police stations have been closing for a number of years, these latest figures highlight the difference between Labour’s talking about crime and what happens in reality.

On television, Government ministers tell us they are spending more on policing. In practice, violent crime is soaring and the public feels let down by Labour’s record.

As Michael Howard has stated in his speech about fighting crime and restoring respect, we need a new start in policing with more officers on the streets, less paperwork and bureaucracy and an emphasis on results, not targets.

In his speech on Tuesday, Mr Howard quoted Sir Robert Peel, the founder of Britain’s police force, who said, “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder – not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it”.

But in instances of domestic burglary or violent crime, said Mr Howard, “David Blunkett’s ‘Policing Performance Assessment Framework’ requires the police to ‘measure the victims’ satisfaction with the overall level of service provided’.

“What the victims of burglary and violent crime want is to see the criminal who caused the crime caught, convicted and punished.”

He added, “We need to police our streets, not de-police them. We need a police force which intervenes, confronts and challenges every kind of crime and disorder… in short, we need zero-tolerance policing.”

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