I start by saying how much I admire the work of the police. It is an unenviable job, and to follow on from what my hon. Friend Dr. Taylor said, the police have expressed frustration to me about their inability to get charges through the Crown Prosecution Service and into court.
Although we have spoken a lot about the young people of this country, it is not just people under 18 who cause antisocial behaviour. It is often families and people in their 30s, 40s and 50s, so it is not right to demonise young people. In fact, I had the honour of attending a meeting of the all-party group on youth affairs last week, chaired by Natascha Engel. Some 50 young people were there who took an interest in their community, in law and in government. I urge Ministers to speak to those young people and listen to them, because they want to put things right as well.
I have lived in the same street in my constituency all my life, and it has saddened me to see the change over the past 20 or 25 years. The community has disintegrated in some parts of my constituency. Areas such as mine relied on traditional industry, and we are now seeing the second and third generation of people unemployed. That has led to a loss of identity and belonging. Children have nothing to belong to, and they do not want to address anything in their area any more. They are disengaged from all aspects of life.
We have heard about the tragic death of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter, and we could all cite cases of exactly the same problem. There are two ladies living alone in a council property in my constituency who have had their windows smashed four times in the past six months. Often in such cases, the same thing happens as in the case of Fiona Pilkington: the crime is reported, but because it is at the same address as a previous crime it tends to get low priority. I have tried and tried to get those two ladies registered as vulnerable adults, because they are in trouble all the time, but the council will not recognise that.
The Minister said that the problem of perceived crime was reducing, but I only hope that real crime is not going up. In my constituency, the police have told me that because of the recession the increase is more than 10 per cent. I have said before in the House that we have taken police away from our communities. We have empty police stations across our boroughs. I have said many times that we should go back to having police houses on estates. It was said earlier that the police need to live with the problem, but they used to do that. They were there on estates and on hand to respond to problems.
I have asked many times for family intervention. When troubled parents have two, three or four children, the chances are that the children will not be angels. Unless we deal with the problem on a one-to-one basis, it will not be solved. The Minister mentioned the family intervention project. Will he clarify who pays for it, and who controls it, and when he will consider rolling it out in other areas?
The problem of education has been mentioned. I have said many times that children are now having children, and the grandparent role has disappeared in some families because people aged 30 do not see themselves as grandparents. The wider family is starting to dissolve.
One project that has been introduced in our area is the PACT meeting-partners and community together-which is a wonderful concept using the multi-agency approach that we have heard about tonight. The problem is that when issues are raised at PACT meetings time and time again and nothing is done, it drives away people in the community. They think, "What is the point? Why should I attend? Nothing is ever done."
As my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest said, people are becoming afraid to come forward and confront those who are causing problems. We have heard tonight about the 3,000 or so laws that have been introduced over the past 10 to 12 years. My hon. Friend and I were present when the "Anti-Social Behaviour Enforcement and Support Tools" document was published. The sad thing is that although we support the document, we have yet to see it really put into force. The last thing we need is more laws that will not be enforced.
I was very concerned to hear in the news recently about the proposal-although it has been put to one side-for police to carry guns. We are moving towards an American system, and that is something to which I object. My worry is that we are also looking at vigilantism. If we are not to deal with the situation in a law-abiding way, in some areas-I have seen such things on estates in my constituency-we could move towards vigilantism and people taking the law into their own hands.
I have urged police in my constituency to walk the streets in plain clothes. Very often, they turn up like the cavalry, with the horns blowing and flashing lights, so by the time they arrive, the perpetrators have gone-the police have driven them away. That is wonderful for that street at that time, but the police have just moved the perpetrators elsewhere. CCTV cameras have the same effect. They are a wonderful concept, but they tend to move the problem from one street to another, not to solve it.
The police look at statistics-the Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism mentioned that the number of targets and statistics is being reduced-but my worry is that they book smaller crimes, such as parking offences, and the community is given those statistics on what the police have done. In many cases, the police do not investigate car damage. I have urged my constituents at the very least to ask for a log number whenever they phone the police, because if their call is listed as "no crime", at least there will be a log of the call to the police station.
There is huge concern about the loss of funding. We have heard about the multi-agency approach, but the budgets of borough councils are being squeezed every year. I am afraid that the number of youth workers will decrease and that community centres will be closed. I am also concerned about short-term funding. We put something in place for six or 12 months, but if it works, it should be there for ever. We are worried that the voluntary sector is being squeezed and losing funds. We have heard about wardens on the streets and community pastors-there are lots of initiatives, but it is no good having an initiative for a week or a fortnight. If it works, it should be funded for ever.
One debate last week was on the Territorial Army. I wonder whether there is an opportunity for the young people who are causing problems to be part of the TA, the Air Training Corps or the Scouts. Can we develop a programme that will get those youngsters involved in community work? I know there are lots of problems with health and safety these days, but there are so many things that need doing in our constituencies, and I am sure there is a will and a way to do them.
I look forward to the day when people from both sides of the House can sit around the table together-we have heard good ideas and wonderful things from people of all parties and, I hope, from independents. I wonder whether we could one day get together and put those things down on paper and introduce them.
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