The raft of measures to tackle crime in the UK, set to be unveiled by Downing Street on 27 July, has already been criticised by the Labour Party and the Police Federation, who represent rank-and-file officers, as “more gimmicks and more slogans”.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged “unstinting” efforts to make society safer as part of his much-touted levelling-up agenda – a central message since the current Conservative government came to power after elections in 2019.
“When I first stood on the steps of Downing Street as prime minister, I promised to back the police and make people safer, because we cannot level up the country when crime hits the poorest hardest and draws the most vulnerable into violence,” said Johnson.
The PM is set to unveil the government’s new Beating Crime Plan, built around three key reforms, on Tuesday.
“…My government has remained unstinting in its efforts to protect the British public and this plan delivers a fresh commitment, as we emerge from the impacts of the pandemic, to have less crime, fewer victims and a safer society,” added the Prime Minister.
The Beating Crime Plan will provide crime victims with a named and contactable police officer dedicated to serving their area, envisions the creation of league tables outlining answering times for 101 and 999 calls, and the expansion of Project Adder – which targets gangs which traffic narcotics, to “throttle the life out of them”.
The initiative, hailing back to the Conservative Party’s manifesto promise to crack down on crime, includes measures such as expanding 24 hour-a-day monitoring of burglars and thieves after their release from prison using electronic tags.
It also presupposes relaxing conditions on the use of so-called “section 60” stop and search powers of officers without reasonable suspicion in places where serious violence may occur.
Furthermore, offenders will be made to clean streets and open spaces while wearing hi-vis clothing.
Wales will also become the first area in the UK to trial “alcohol monitoring tags”. These shall be used to detect from sweat when prison-leavers have been drinking.
£17 mln is to be channelled to the Violence Reduction Units, while additional funding will cover increased lighting and CCTV provision as part of the Safer Streets Fund.
Home Secretary Priti Patel vowed the plan will deliver “a better future for the British public”.
“I am absolutely determined to cut crime and deliver a safer society for the public, and the Beating Crime Plan shows how the government is going to do just that,” said Patel. She added that 20,000 new police officers would be put on the street equipped with “new powers to catch criminals and take away knives, and shutting down drug gangs who exploit children and the vulnerable to make money”.
‘All Talk, No Action’
The government and its much-touted plan to beat crime was earlier slammed by the opposition as “all talk and no action”.
“This announcement of rehashed policies won’t make our streets safer. The Conservatives are all talk and no action when it comes to tackling crime. On their watch, police numbers are down and community policing has been decimated. Coupled with an insulting pay freeze, it is no wonder frontline police have declared no confidence in the home secretary,” said Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds.
Let’s hear no more Tory pretence on being a party of law and order.
– Police have ‘lost confidence’ in Priti Patel
– Anti-social behaviour rocketing
– Rape convictions at a record low
– Thousands of police records mistakenly deleted
This Tory chaos is dangerous.
— Nick Thomas-Symonds MP (@NickTorfaen) July 22, 2021
The UK Police Federation, which represents over 130,000 rank-and-file police officers, last week passed a motion of no confidence in Home Secretary Priti Patel after the government announced pay for officers in England and Wales earning over £24,000 would be frozen this year due to COVID-19 pandemic challenges.
The Police Federation of England & Wales no longer has confidence in the current Home Secretary.
The organisation has made a decision to withdraw its support and engagement from the Police Remuneration Review Body, labelling the current pay mechanism ‘not fit for purpose’.
— Police Federation (@PFEW_HQ) July 22, 2021
Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, John Apter, is set to deliver a letter to Downing Street on Tuesday objecting to both the pay freeze and the crime-tackling proposals.
“We don’t need old ideas presented as new, we need genuine investment for the whole of the criminal justice system and genuine consultation over new ideas. Without that, this is just another ill-thought out initiative,” the letter is quoted by the outlet as saying.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer appeared on LBC on Monday to similarly denounce the government initiatives:
“This is just a gimmick by the prime minister yet again – he loves soundbites, he loves slogans, he loves gimmicks… This one won’t work. If anything it will make things worse because individual officers work shifts, they’re doing investigations, they’re off duty. It will actually slow things down. It’s an ill-thought-through gimmick.”
Former shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, said the plan was “a checklist of gimmicks designed to get Priti Patel good headlines in the tabloid press in the short term but it does nothing about the long term problems in the criminal justice system.”