Crime and Antisocial Behaviour: Stockton South

Part of Petition - Green Deal Scheme – in the House of Commons at 7:20 pm on 14th May 2019.

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Photo of Paul Williams Paul Williams Labour, Stockton South 7:20 pm, 14th May 2019

I thank the hon. Gentleman for making that point. Of course there is not just a criminal justice response to crime and antisocial behaviour. Many people, including those in voluntary and community sector organisations and schools, are working to build the capacity of our communities. However, there is also a need for an adequate police response.

In Ingleby Barwick, a great deal of attention has been paid to antisocial behaviour. Again, there have been attacks on individuals. People shopping at the local branch of Tesco have been subjected to unacceptable levels of intimidation and abuse. I recently met the Low Hartburn residents group. People are so concerned about the rising levels of property theft in that area that a group of concerned residents—who stress that they are not vigilantes—have formed a strong residents group. They organise activities such as playdays and community capacity-building, but they also have a rota, taking it in turns to patrol their estate at night. These are hard-working people who have jobs during the day. They are not doing this off their own bat— they are working with the police, and are taking plenty of necessary precautions—but they are having to enhance the community’s response by organising their own street patrols.

In Parkfield and Oxbridge, I have heard testimony from the excellent local councillors, including Louise Baldock. She has told me about intolerable levels of antisocial behaviour. People have referred to a lot of abuse in the streets, many residents are worried about the high level of drug-dealing in the streets, and there is street sex work. Even in the more affluent area of Hartburn, where I spent time with residents on Friday, there are high levels of car crime and shoplifting. I am sure that all that is being echoed in many other areas in Stockton South.

What I have related so far is a series of anecdotes, but the data is quite shocking. I asked the House of Commons Library about the figures for reported crime. I know that it has increased throughout the country—there has been a 31% increase throughout England and Wales, although that may be due partly to increases in crime and partly to better reporting—but in Cleveland there has been a 55% increase, and in my constituency there was an 83% increase between 2011-12 and 2018-19. The perceptions of people on the street are clearly borne out by that data. That may be because there are some unique problems in Cleveland. We have the highest level of reported antisocial behaviour in the country, the second highest levels of domestic violence and the highest levels of drug abuse. We are an area of very high deprivation and have some serious and organised criminals involved in the supply of drugs. There are some serious urban problems in our area and a serious response is required, but in the period since 2011-12 there has been not just a real-terms cut, but a cash-terms reduction. Cleveland police force is £34 million worse off, and that is including a slight increase in funding last year, although for the area with the fourth highest reported crime rate in the country we had the second lowest level of increased funding. Since 2011-12 there has been a cash-terms reduction of £17 million in our police budget. That has meant that in a time of increased crime—an 83% increase—our police numbers have been slashed from 1,700 to 1,200; there are 500 fewer police and 50 fewer police community support officers.

Unfortunately, we have had several chief constables. One retired, one suddenly left, and we now have a brilliant new chief constable in Richard Lewis. I have listened to all of them and they have said that uniquely in Cleveland—many of them have worked in other parts of the country—the police just do not have the resources to respond to the levels of demand.