Politically Speaking: By Yvette Cooper, MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford
Action is needed now to stem growing crime
No one should have to endure crime or antisocial behaviour – and when awful crimes do happen, victims need to see justice being done.
Yet in recent years we’ve seen antisocial behaviour going up, violent and drug offences increasing, and a massive drop in cases going to court.
Frankly, it feels like the government is letting the criminal justice system fall apart, and far too many people in our towns are being let down.
We need urgent action – including more police, more prevention work, and more prosecutions – to turn things around.
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For a start we need more neighbourhood police. 20,000 police officers were cut over a decade by the Conservative government, and that’s meant we’ve lost hundreds of police from West Yorkshire, including many from our streets in the Five Towns and Wakefield.
West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin has started to improve things by increasing police officer recruitment. But I’m also calling on the West Yorkshire chief constable to ensure enough extra officers are deployed into our local neighbourhoods and I’ve launched a petition to get more police back on the beat in our towns.
It’s not just about police numbers.
Crime prevention work has been heavily cut – including closing youth services or downgrading CCTV.
Yet the government is spending £250 million on a royal yacht that neither the royal family or the Royal Navy actually want. They should scrap the whole thing and instead invest the money in crime prevention measures in towns like ours instead.
Even basic investment saves more in the long run. For example, in Normanton, the town centre CCTV would be much more effective if it was linked to a radio alert system for local shopkeepers as we’ve got in other places.
All our towns desperately need more activities for young people. We also need proper action and services to tackle drug addiction and abuse.
We also badly need action to increase prosecutions of serious crimes.
Even in the five years before Covid, recorded crimes had gone up by 40 per cent but prosecutions had fallen by a shocking 30 per cent.
Rape figures are worst, with less than two per cent of reported cases going to court. That means too many criminals are getting away with it and too many victims are being let down.
How has the government allowed this to happen?
Ministers can’t just keep bumbling around, we need urgent action to be taken, working with the police, Crown Prosecution Service and the courts to sort things out.
There are gaps in the law that need to be tackled too. For example, there’s a six-month limit on prosecuting many domestic abuse cases – letting dangerous perpetrators off the hook. I’m arguing in parliament to get that law changed.
We also need stronger laws on violence against shop workers and new legislation on online fraud.
Crimes like dog theft aren’t taken seriously enough either, and I’m calling for stronger sentences when much loved pets are stolen.
Crime can be devastating. We need the government to start taking it much more seriously and to work with local people to keep our communities safe.