Boris Johnson comes out of isolation to launch Beating Crime plan that vows to make yobs clean streets, track burglars with GPS tags and give police new search powers – amid backlash at ‘gimmick’ proposals
- The PM – who was told to stay at home after a positive contact – outlined plan to boost police and tackle crime
- Greeted with a wave of scepticism, as Labour claimed that the document merely ‘rehashed’ previous policies
- Human rights charity Liberty said easing restrictions on Stop and Search would ‘compound discrimination’
Boris Johnson re-emerged from self-isolation today to unveil his new Beating Crime Plan to toughen up policing and crack down on criminals – only to be immediately met with a storm of criticism.
Among the proposals are relaxing restrictions on stop and search to tackle knife crime, fitting burglars with 24-hour GPS tags, and forcing yobs to clean up rubbish.
The Prime Minister – who was told to stay at home after a positive contact – also wants to ensure that every neighbourhood in England and Wales has a named police officer that residents can contact.
But Labour said the document was a mere ‘gimmick’ that ‘rehashed’ previous policies and would do nothing to make the streets safer.
The party pointed out that the Tories cut the number of police by more than 20,000 after taking office in 2010 and recently froze their pay, causing the National Police Federation to declare it had ‘no confidence’ in Miss Patel.
Meanwhile, human rights organisation Liberty said easing the restrictions on Stop and Search would ‘compound discrimination’ in the UK, while Diane Abbott called the proposal ‘alarming and counter-productive’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with Home Secretary Priti Patel, speaks to a police dog handler today during a visit to Surrey Police headquarters in Guildford, Surrey, to coincide with the publication of the government’s Beating Crime Plan
Mr Johnson speaks to Sergeant Dog Handler Mike Barnes as he throws a ball for six year old cocker spaniel Rebel, a proactive drugs dog, during a visit to Surrey Police’s headquarters this morning
The Government has defended a decision not to offer an across-the-board pay rise to police officers this year because of economic ‘difficulties’ caused by the pandemic.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse pledged that the Government would do ‘other things’ to make police officers feel ‘valued and supported’.
Officers who earn more than £24,000 are subject to a pay freeze this year, compared with NHS staff who will receive 3%, and firefighters and local government workers who will get 1.5%.
Mr Malthouse told Sky News: ‘We want to make sure that officers feel valued and rewarded and are supported in doing their job. And while obviously a decision was taken last week around pay which is tough, there are lots of other things about policing which have been good over the last couple of years.’
Mr Malthouse added: ‘It has been tough this year. I hope we can return to some kind of normality in the future, but our economy is in some difficulties. Obviously the private sector has taken a big hit and it is the private sector that pays for the public sector, and we have to balance all those things.’
Last week, the Police Federation of England and Wales, representing more than 130,000 officers from the rank of constable to chief inspector, passed a motion of no confidence in Home Secretary Priti Patel in a row over pay.
Mr Malthouse, who answers to the Home Secretary, said he had recently met officers on a visit to South Wales who were ‘focused on their mission’ and had not shared concerns expressed by the Police Federation.
Mr Malthouse later told LBC that the Government will bring forward plans to offer police officers support with their mental and physical health later this year.
He said: ‘Later in legislation this year we have got the Police Covenant coming, which is looking at wellness, safety, family support to make sure that police officers feel we are looking after them physically and mentally as they do their challenging job.’
The Government has today launched a new Beating Crime Plan, aimed at tackling issues like county lines and knife crime, as well as pledging to provide victims of crime with a named officer to call about their case.
But on the day that details of the crime-blitz strategy are revealed, chairman of the Police Federation John Apter will take a letter to Number 10 setting out officers’ anger at the current pay deal.
Today policing minister Kit Malthouse hit back at criticism, and asked: ‘What else can we do?’ when questioned whether Stop and Search is discriminatory.
He told Sky News: ‘I am afraid I just don’t agree with that, and when people charge me on Stop and Search, I often say: ‘OK, if we can’t do Stop and Search, what else can we do?’ But it has to be something we can do tonight.
‘We know that those people with knives in their pockets going out to injure and kill are out there tonight, and if I were a parent of one of these young men, and it is often young men, sadly, I would want to know that the killers might have been stopped and searched on the way to perpetrating that awful act.’
Mr Malthouse added: ‘To those people who are critics of the tactics, I would say: look at the numbers, particularly somewhere like London, and tell us what the tactic should be instead. There’s long-term work, I agree, it is not the long-term solution. But in the short term it can have a big impact on suppressing knife crime.’
Miss Patel said criminals will also be made to clean up streets and green spaces to ensure justice is ‘seen to be done’. Writing in today’s Daily Mail, the Home Secretary promises to make ‘yobs pay back to the communities they’ve blighted’.
The plan says GPS monitoring of offenders will be extended to cover half the country’s police forces.
Tracking the movements of freed burglars will help ‘deter and detect further acquisitive crimes’.
Unveiling the plan today, the Prime Minister will announce a trial of alcohol monitoring tags, which check whether those guilty of drink-fuelled crime stay off booze.
Officers will also be given more powers to seize knives under a relaxation of restrictions on their stop and search powers.
Miss Patel says: ‘The public want to see justice done and criminals pay the price for their crimes. They want to see yobs pay back to the communities they’ve blighted by their thoughtless actions.
‘That’s why we are relaunching unpaid work so it is more visible, to ensure offenders are publicly making reparations for their crimes by undertaking work that is valuable to their local areas, such as cleaning the streets, estates, alleyways and open spaces of litter and other visible signs of disorder in local neighbourhoods.’
The Police Federation will today deliver a letter to Downing Street setting out the anger of the rank-and-file at a pay freeze.
Mr Johnson’s document also pledges:
- Plans for league tables for forces’ 101 and 999 call-answering times;
- A national online platform to allow the public to contact police;
- A pilot scheme with Greater Manchester Police to test the benefit of sending an officer to every reported burglary;
- More officers to deal with ‘the tiny minority of truant kids’;
- An ‘action plan’ to tackle fraud – now the biggest crime in the country;
- Initiatives to reduce court wait times after cases piled up over the pandemic;
- Efforts against county lines drug gangs to be intensified, with more testing of suspects after arrest;
- A new ‘victims law’ to codify their rights;
- A £17 million package to persuade young people who go to A&E with a stab wound or have contact with police to stay away from violence;
- £45 million for specialist teams in schools in violence hotspots;
- A permanent relaxing of conditions on the use of section 60 stop and search powers – where officers can search someone without reasonable grounds in an area where serious violence is expected;
- More money for targeted patrols, increased street lighting and CCTV.
As part of the plan, Mr Johnson wants to make community service more visible by getting offenders to clean up public places rather than working inside (stock image)
1,500 more burglars, thieves and robbers to be GPS tagged
Hundreds more burglars, robbers and thieves will be electronically tagged in a bid to cut down on reoffending, Boris Johnson’s new plan states.
Ministers expect that over the next year 1,500 more offenders will have their whereabouts monitored 24 hours a day for up to a year by GPS tags upon release from prison.
All burglars who have served a sentence of a year or more will be tagged.
At present this only occurs in six police forces in the country, but the scheme will be expanded to 13 more, ensuring it covers half of the country.
Police forces will be ranked in league tables according to how quickly they answer 999 and 101 calls to respond to the public’s plea for help.
It comes as some victims are waiting up to ten minutes for their 999 call to be answered due to the ‘pingdemic’ causing staff shortages. Emergency calls made in the West Midlands area during the early hours of Sunday were taking an average of four minutes to speak to an operator. Some call waiting times reportedly stretched to nearly ten minutes.
Yesterday Labour West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster said of the 999 league tables: ‘This is an extra layer of bureaucracy and a gimmick that will just add to the police’s workload and slow things down.’
The Police Federation – the officers’ union – said the return to targets would be a damaging and retrograde step.
As part of the plan, Mr Johnson wants to make community service more visible by getting offenders to clean up public places rather than working inside.
Many work in charity shops or in warehouses sorting clothes from charity collection bins. A number will be employed clearing waterways and canal paths as well as sprucing up woods and beaches. The offenders will wear hi-vis jackets.
The Government will trial the use of monitoring tags that detect alcohol in the sweat of offenders guilty of drink-fuelled crime. The test, which will take place on prison leavers in Wales, is to address the fact that alcohol is a significant driver of crime, playing a part in 39 per cent of all violent offences.
On release offenders may be required to wear a tag and either not drink at all or not consume more than a certain amount.
Mr Johnson’s plan includes permanently relaxing conditions on the use of section 60 stop and search powers to empower police to take more knives off the streets.
The conditions were imposed under the Tories in 2014 when Theresa May was Home Secretary but are now being lifted.
It means an authorisation for stop and search no longer needs to be referred up to a senior officer. Inspectors can also search someone if they are concerned an incident involving serious violence ‘may’ – rather than ‘will’ – occur.
John Apter, the chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, will today deliver a letter to No 10 – just days after the group said it no longer had confidence in Miss Patel.
Criticising Mr Johnson’s plan, the letter says: ‘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.
‘Police officers are sick of gimmicks. Sick of underfunding. Sick of mixed messaging putting police at risk. Sick of Government contempt for police. It’s time for a total reset.’
The plans also include a £17 million package to persuade young people who go to an emergency department with a stab wound or have contact with police to stay away from violence.
Rebel, a proactive drugs dog looked after by Sergeant Mike Barnes, leaps to catch a ball during the PM’s visit to the Surrey Police HQ today
But Iryna Pona, policy manager at the Children’s Society charity, said intervention should take place long before young people end up in hospital.
She added: ‘Prevention is better than cure. We need to be helping young people well before they end up being rushed into A&E fighting for their lives.
‘We want to see a long-term plan for investment in early help for children at the first signs that they are vulnerable to being groomed.’
Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow home secretary, 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.
‘There are already targets for emergency response times and having named officers in wards is not enough to make up for the devastating scale of Conservative cuts to community policing.
‘Little wonder that, on their watch, anti-social behaviour is rocketing, there are record low convictions for rape and violent crime is devastating communities.’
But Mr Johnson said last night: ‘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.
‘That is why 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.
PRITI PATEL: Public want to see justice done… and offenders pay for crimes
Crime destroys lives and ruins neighbourhoods. It leaves people afraid, bereft and bereaved.
It must be confronted. Our Beating Crime Plan contains a range of measures to reduce crime and level up the country so that everyone has the security and confidence that comes from having a safe street and a safe home.
From day one as Home Secretary, I’ve made it clear that I will back the police. We have already recruited nearly 9,000 extra police officers as part of our unprecedented recruitment drive to bring in 20,000.
We’ll make sure that every community in the country has a named police contact – someone who knows your neighbourhood and can act on the challenges your community faces.
PRITI PATEL: Crime destroys lives and ruins neighbourhoods. It leaves people afraid, bereft and bereaved
The significance of this cannot be underestimated – I know that Mail readers want to know who their local bobby on the beat is and who they can turn to when affected by crime.
The public also want to see justice done and criminals pay the price for their crimes. They want to see yobs pay back to the communities they’ve blighted by their thoughtless actions.
That’s why we are relaunching unpaid work so it is more visible, to ensure offenders are publicly making reparations for their crimes by undertaking work that is valuable to their local areas, such as cleaning the streets, estates, alleyways and open spaces of litter and other visible signs of disorder in local neighbourhoods.
We will step up our efforts to go after drug gangs that exploit the young and vulnerable. We have already closed more than 1,100 county lines, there have been more than 6,300 arrests and millions of pounds and lots of drugs have been seized.
More than 1,900 vulnerable people have been rescued from exploitation by drug dealers. Our plan represents our comprehensive, far-reaching strategy for driving down all types of crime.
It will give the law-abiding majority confidence in the police to deal with crime and it will ensure that criminals know they will face the consequences of their vile actions.
The plan sets out our approach to hidden harms, which can leave people feeling vulnerable in their own homes. Women and girls are affected by certain violent crimes in particular ways and to a greater degree than men and boys, requiring a specific response and a distinct strategy, which we recently published.
PRITI PATEL: GPS tagging is a highly effective way of keeping track of offenders and it will be rolled out to a further thirteen areas (stock image)
We are increasing investment in the Safer Streets Fund. Meanwhile, violence reduction units will receive an additional £17million to deliver targeted interventions to young people – including at moments of crisis, such as when they go to A&E with a knife wound.
GPS tagging is a highly effective way of keeping track of offenders and it will be rolled out to a further thirteen areas.
We will launch alcohol monitoring on licence in Wales later this year, to explore how alcohol tags can change behaviour and reduce alcohol-fuelled crime, including on release from prison.
One of the biggest drivers of crime is drugs. There will be more drug testing when people are arrested. Project Adder is an intensive approach that addresses addiction, diversion, disruption, enforcement and recovery.
It has worked very well so far, so we are going to expand these schemes to an additional eight local authorities.
The first duty of any Government is to do all it can to keep people safe. We will not shirk that responsibility. We are going to drive down crime.
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