Where police forces have been able to isolate crime figures for areas covered by individual schemes the results have indicated that well-run schemes can reduce the level of local crime.
Is my hon. Friend aware that 96 per cent. of all recorded crime is against property? In the light of the appalling figures, does he agree that we need a national crusade against crime, engaging every part of the community? Does he agree that neighbourhood watch schemes have an important part to play?
I do indeed. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his advocacy and I note with particular pleasure that in the county of Sussex, which he represents so well, there were 350 neighbourhood watch schemes in October 1986 and that that number has increased to 1,903. Taking a broader perspective, there are now 28,500 neighbourhood watch schemes in the country, which means that the number has trebled in the last year.
Is the Minister aware that I fully support neighbourhood watch schemes, of which there are many in the Northumbria police area? Is he further aware that since 1978 burglary in that area has increased by 83 per cent.? That means that we have a burglary every 10 minutes. Is it not time that the Minister increased Northumbria's police establishment and that the police got their backsides out of panda cars and their feet on the beat?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support of neighbourhood watch. I am not in the least suprised, because he will know of the neighbourhood watch scheme at Millfield and Fawdon in his county, where offences of burglary and car theft have been reduced by 25 per cent.
Is my hon. Friend aware that in many areas neighbourhood watch schemes are not making good progress? In my county of Hampshire progress is slow. Is my hon. Friend aware that some of the crimes which neighbourhood watch should be able to detect remain unobserved? Is he aware of the serious problem of the bogus water inspector, the bogus electricity inspector and the bogus health inspector? [Interruption.]
Is my hon. Friend aware of the bogus officials who call on pensioners, ransack their houses and steal their life savings? Does he agree that more attention should be paid to that problem by the police within the neighbourhood watch schemes?
I accept that neighbourhood watch schemes have a part to play in crime prevention, but do they not represent the totality of the Government's crime prevention policies? Is it not time that we had more action, a positive strategy and a real sense of commitment?
May I be helpful to the Minister and the Home Secretary? I have in my possession a document on crime prevention which deals with how to make neighbourhoods safe, how to provide crime prevention grants for owner-occupiers and tenants and how to help victims. That will form the basis of the next Labour Government's policy. If the Minister wants to start implementing that policy now, he is welcome to the document.
The hon. Member is an awfully nice chap, but he really must not laugh when he talks about the next Labour Government. I know that he does not believe that it is going to happen, but he should not make his disbelief so apparent. Another own goal! The Government are spending £50 million a year. or rather more, on crime prevention, very much along the lines which the hon. Gentleman has suggested.
Will my hon. Friend commend the encouragement given by the Cheshire constabulary to the setting up of neighbourhood watch schemes in Cheshire, and particularly commend Major Hugh Thornburn and the Alderley Edge parish council, which have recently, in conjunction and co-operation with the Cheshire constabulary, held an oustandingly successful neighbourhood watch scheme exhibition and seminar, which was widely supported by the public in the area?