MPs and campaigners alarmed at UK’s ‘discriminatory’ crime reduction plans

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Stuart Emmerson/Alamy Stock Photo</span>
Photograph: Stuart Emmerson/Alamy Stock Photo

MPs and campaigners have sounded alarm at a series of proposals in the government crime reduction plan, including more frequent stop and search, a trial of “alcohol tags” and criminals undertaking “visible” community service cleaning streets.

Liberty said the permanent relaxation of search powers would “compound discrimination in Britain and divide communities” and the former shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, said it was “alarming and counter-productive.”

Labour said the policy was a “rehash” of a number of preannounced proposals and expansions of existing pilots.

The strategy will include a plan for every neighbourhood in England and Wales to have a named and contactable police officer as well as a league table for 101 and 999 answering times.

Boris Johnson said the “beating crime plan” was part of the commitment to “levelling up” parts of the country plagued by crime and antisocial behaviour, but Labour criticised the strategy as lacking vision and said police were demoralised.

Among the proposals in the strategy are:

  • Permanently relaxing conditions on the use of section 60 stop and search powers for police to tackle knife crime

  • Expanding the use of electronic monitoring for thieves upon release from prison

  • Trialling the use of alcohol tags – which detect alcohol in the sweat of offenders guilty of drink-fuelled crime – on prison leavers in Wales

  • Making unpaid work “more visible” by getting offenders to clean streets and open spaces

Offenders doing community service will wear hi-vis as they clear canals or clean graffiti. “The intention is to make the price of crime visible,” one Home Office source said.

Emmanuelle Andrews, policy and campaigns officer at Liberty, said: We all want to feel safe in our communities, but expanding what have proven to be discriminatory police powers isn’t how we get there.

“Many communities, particularly communities of colour, experience overbearing and oppressive policing and the package the government has put forward will only worsen this. It will subject more young people to further coercion, punishment and control.”

Related: Ministers’ pledge to raise police numbers dismissed as ‘hypocrisy’

The Home Office said the plan put special emphasis on causes of crime including alcohol and illegal drugs, citing statistics that half of all homicides last year were drug-related.

That will include the £31m expansion of Project ADDER to eight more local authorities, a strategy that combines police resources to target local gang leaders driving drugs trade, while also investing in addiction recovery.

The government also said it would be investing over £45m in specialist support in mainstream schools and alternative provision in serious violence hotspots to support young people to re-engage in education.

The plan includes a £17m package for violence reduction units to give specialist support from trained youth workers when a young person is arrested or admitted to A&E with a knife injury.

Johnson said the government “cannot level up the country when crime hits the poorest hardest and draws the most vulnerable into violence”.

The prime minister is to make a series of visits to promote the strategy but is likely to encounter tension with frontline officers after the government said the majority of officers would see no increase in pay this year.

The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), which represents 130,000 officers, last week said it had no confidence in home secretary Priti Patel, saying the government “could not be trusted”.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “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.”

Thomas-Symonds said named officers were not a substitute for the effects of cuts on community policing. “Little wonder that, on their watch, antisocial behaviour is rocketing, there are record low convictions for rape and violent crime is devastating communities across the country.”

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.”

Johnson had initially pledged in an article for the Express that “if you are the victim of crime, you have a named officer to call – someone who is immediately on your side.”

However, Labour said the policy appeared to have been diluted, pledging only that “every neighbourhood in England and Wales will have a named and contactable police officer dedicated to its service”.

A Home Office source called that a misreading – saying personal details for a named officer would be available for the area on police.uk which all victims of crime and concerned residents could call.

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