Recession – Impact on Crime & the Funding Debate
The debate around the Governments commitment to Law and Order, and the impact of the coalition budget decisions on local authorities and the proposed cuts in funding support for the police is one that raises concerns and has to be a priority for everyone.
The recession, which is now recognised as being the worst since the 1930’s and whichever Government is in Westminster is going to take up to 10 years to recover from will inevitably ,if we are to learn anything from history lead to unemployment, hardship, deprivation, homelessness and poverty for hard-working families.
What is usually ignored is that alongside the personal problems all recessions bring with them is the rise in crime especially burglary, robbery and sadly as families come under increasing pressure a rise in domestic violence.
An added complication in the 21st Century is of course the availability of drugs which brings with it increased problems which in previous recessions were associated with alcohol only.
I and many others of course are concerned with the problems in Northamptonshire and in particular from my viewpoint in Northampton as the largest urban concentration in the county.
It is common that the victims of domestic violence and especially the women and children subjected to abuse migrate to the urban areas like Northampton where they have a better opportunity to receive and be given protection and support from voluntary organisations, many of who are funded through local authority contributions.
Northampton has excellent and professional organisations such as the Women’s Refuge and Sunflower Centre amongst many others who provide the support that quite frankly local authorities simply do not have the specialist expertise and capability to deliver.
Urban centres of population also provide access to professional organisations for housing, employment, advice and of course the health services who will find a significant increase in the number of people needing help to address and deal with a myriad of issues resulting from the impact of the recession.
Of course it is also a fact that when we talk of deprivation in urban areas the rural communities and people who do not have access to transport and therefore access to services can be in an even worse position, trapped in a downward spiral from which there is no apparent escape.
What we should learn from the recessions in the past is that it is a time when instead of reducing support for the police who work with all organisations to address criminality, support victims and work to protect the public by the prevention of crime ,we should be looking to increase the support.
Most people I talk to have a number of very basic needs, a job with an income that will support them and their family, a home they can afford to pay for, and to live in a threat free environment.
As with all recessions we are seeing increases in unemployment, home repossession and evictions, and crime and it is invariably the police and law enforcement agencies that are amongst the first called when things go wrong.
All police authorities are made up of independent members and local councillors with the remit to support the Chief Constable and police force, and the public quite reasonably will ask whether they support and what actions they will be taking to resist cuts in funding.
In the future of course if the Government stick to their policy it will be the role of the elected police commissioners to beat a path to the organisations cutting funding and represent the public’s anger at cuts which increase not only the fear of crime but the actual increase in crime.
In the meanwhile of course what can the Chief Constable do except cut front line services either by reducing staff through redundancies, through early retirement packages or through a recruitment freeze.
It is grossly unfair on the staff remaining who no doubt will them face a stream of criticism for not responding quickly enough to calls from the public and a rise in the number of stories that all seem to start with “When I was young the local copper gave you a clip around the ear and took you home where your dad gave you another one”, perhaps it’s only me but I never met the mythical policeman and no-one I know has either.
What no -one in the debate of course wants to raise is the ‘elephant in the room option’,
So here goes.
Should we allow and support the police authority and chief constable to replace funding cut by local authorities by increasing the police precept to ensure that at the very least the police services in Northamptonshire are maintained at their current levels.