Yvette Cooper MP: Bring neighbourhood policing back
Yvette Cooper MP writes: We’ve seen it here in the Five Towns where we have lost a shocking two-thirds of our neighbourhood police since the Conservative government came to power 13 years ago. That’s not good enough.
Our town centres are the heart of our communities where everyone should feel safe. That’s why I’m campaigning both locally and nationally to bring neighbourhood policing back.
Our local campaign has made some progress getting more police into Castleford town centre in the last six months, but this must only be the first step. After persistent problems last year, local traders, Castleford councillors and I all called for urgent action. I met repeatedly with West Yorkshire Police chiefs to urge them to put more neighbourhood police in the town centre until finally they agreed and we now have additional police and patrols.
At the same time I’ve been working with Wakefield Council to help the police set up a new Police Hub in Castleford indoor market, open most mornings for people to drop by and get help. Many traders now have local radios linked to CCTV and the police are targeting repeat offenders. The police say town centre crime has fallen as a result.
This should only be the start. I’m running a local petition to get more neighbourhood police right across the Five Towns and hundreds of people have already signed it.
But this isn’t just a local issue. We also need action from government to keep all our town centres safe and right now the Conservatives are letting us down.
Across the country shoplifting has become an epidemic – up by 25 per cent in a year, driven by organised gangs, with a disgraceful rise in assaults on shop workers. Yet too little action is being taken so criminals are just getting away with it. Conservative ministers brought in a ludicrous rule ten years ago which means that thefts of less than £200 rarely get investigated even when it is the same perpetrators each time.
And half the country say they never see the bobby on the beat because we still have 10,000 fewer neighbourhood police than ten years ago.
That is why alongside our local campaign, I have also drawn up plans for a future Labour government to crackdown on town centre crime if elected next year. That includes 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs, getting rid of the £200 rule so that the police can go after shoplifting gangs, new powers to ban repeat offenders from town centres and stronger sentences for assaults against shop workers, because everyone has the right to feel safe at work.
I’m also working on new positive prevention plans to tackle problems and stop young people being drawn into crime and antisocial behaviour in the first place. Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime – that is what our town centres need so they are the heart of our communities and everyone can feel safe.