Crime and Antisocial Behaviour: Stockton South

Part of Petition - Green Deal Scheme – in the House of Commons at 7:40 pm on 14th May 2019.

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Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women 7:40 pm, 14th May 2019

If the hon. Gentleman had been listening, he would have heard me say that officials and I will look into the matter because we want to ensure that colleagues’ letters receive a response.

The hon. Member for Stockton South made many points, but I will first refer to the overall national picture of crime. The independent Office for National Statistics is clear that the likelihood of being a victim of crime remains low, but we are not complacent. We know that there has been a genuine increase in serious violent crimes, and a recent YouGov poll showed that crime was a more important issue to the public than health for the first time. We are determined to tackle all forms of crime and we are taking decisive action in a number of areas.

The hon. Gentleman made particular reference to serious violence. The measures that we are taking include £17.7 million for 29 projects endorsed by police and crime commissioners under the early intervention youth fund—part of the £22 million that has been committed overall—and a new £3.6 million national county lines co-ordination centre led by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the National Crime Agency, which launched last September. In the few months that the centre has been operating, it has seen more than 1,000 arrests and over 1,300 vulnerable people safeguarded, which perhaps underlines the fact that many of the crimes that the police now have to deal with involve not only criminality, with serious organised crime gangs and so on, but the manipulation of vulnerable people. Tackling that forms part of our approach under the serious violence strategy.

The Government are also investing in a new national police capability to tackle gang-related activity on social media, which is a new, 21st-century methodology that gangs are using, and we are in the middle of strengthening legislation on firearms, knives and corrosive substances through the Offensive Weapons Bill, which I hope will receive Royal Assent this week. We are also launching a consultation on a new legal duty to underpin a public health approach to tackling serious violence.

I would not want anyone to think that the Home Office does not take the concerns of the north-east seriously when it comes to crime. I was in Darlington last week at a serious violence engagement event for the north-east. I spoke to a hall full of local people from all manner of agencies—education, healthcare, local government, trading standards and so on, as well as the police—about what we can do locally to ensure that the approach to tackling serious violence is as co-ordinated and effective possible.

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that Cleveland is also receiving more than £546,000 through the early intervention youth fund to support the development of early intervention programmes aimed at young people at risk of engaging in criminality, including serious violence and knife crime. We are also taking action to address the drivers of such crime. For example, we recognise the devastating impact that illicit drugs can have on individuals and communities, which is why the Home Secretary has commissioned an independent review of drugs, in which Professor Dame Carol Black is looking at drug use in the 21st century and the ways in which drugs are fuelling, for example, serious violence. We look forward to the review’s initial findings in the summer.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned antisocial behaviour and described its wearing effect on local communities. We recognise the impact it can have on people and communities and on people’s enjoyment of their communities. We reformed the tools and powers available to local areas to tackle antisocial behaviour through the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. Those tools and powers are designed to enable local agencies to respond to such behaviours, to stop them escalating and to prevent them from reoccurring.

Both the police and, on some occasions, local councils can use a range of powers to help members of the public with antisocial behaviour. They include court orders to stop the behaviour of the most destructive people, powers to close premises that are causing nuisance or disorder, and powers to stop antisocial behaviour in public places. The community trigger and other measures enable the public to feed back to the police and the local council when they think antisocial behaviour is not being dealt with as they would like.

We have published statutory guidance on this to help local areas, and we have updated it to reflect feedback from professionals and to remind them of the importance of proportionality and transparency in the use of some of these powers, which are very varied. These are strong powers that can be used, and we keep them under review through a national strategic board that brings together representatives from key agencies and from across government to consider our approach and to identify any developing issues.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned police funding and—I almost hesitate, because I know hon. Members know this—I will give a little history lesson on why very difficult decisions had to be made at the beginning of this decade. We inherited a terrible economic mess and had to make very difficult decisions not just in policing but in a number of areas to live within our means and to try to repair some of the damage. It is precisely because of that stewardship that we are now in a better position financially and we are able to increase police funding, as we did last year, thus ensuring, with the help of police and crime commissioners, that there is more money for local police forces, counter-terrorism and those officers who tackle serious and organised crime. Nationally, funding will increase by more than £1 billion in 2019-20, including, as I say, with the help of council tax, extra funding for pensions costs and the serious violence fund announced by the Chancellor in the spring statement. Interestingly, this funding is already enabling the police to recruit to fill key gaps and to meet the financial pressures they face next year.

Cleveland police will receive an increase of £7.3 million next year, to a total figure of £132.7 million. That is an increase of nearly 6%. It is a shame the hon. Gentleman did not feel able to support the Government giving that £7 million more to Cleveland police, but I am sure that Cleveland’s PCC will use it wisely. He asked me a pertinent question at the serious violence engagement event on Thursday. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his neighbour, Alex Cunningham, will lobby the PCC to spend that money on more officers.

I note the time. I am delighted that the hon. Member for Stockton South has been able to secure this debate. I very much look forward to discussing this with him further.

House adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 9(7)).