Crime strategy detracting from Government's problems - Andrew Vine

I SPENT part of the weekend installing new deadbolts on my patio doors after a neighbour’s CCTV caught a masked man creeping down both our driveways at 2am and trying the doorhandles.

Picture: Simon Hulme.

Somebody round the corner was burgled the same night, and a couple of other people awoke to find their garages had been broken into.

The burglary victim was distraught, and the rest of us all felt that impotent rage of knowing that one of society’s rewards for working hard in order to have somewhere decent to live is to make you a target for thieving lowlifes.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The police were very good, and took away the CCTV pictures, but the next day on a follow-up visit admitted that since the intruder was masked and had a hat pulled low to shade the rest of his face, the chances of identifying and catching him were non-existent.

Their advice, as always, was to add extra security to make it as difficult as possible for any would-be intruder.

Which is all well and good, but it amounts to an admission that there is a category of criminal who is just going to get away with it. And so another few numbers are added to the crime figures and another householder will see his home insurance premium hiked because of a claim for stolen goods.

Thankfully, most of us are never victims of a really serious crime, but many see their homes violated and possessions stolen without anybody being arrested, prosecuted and punished.

Property crime fell over the past year-and-a-half as lockdowns kept people at home and it was much easier to spot anybody acting suspiciously on deserted streets. But it’s back with a vengeance, and communities just like mine all over the country want to know what’s going to be done about it. Sadly, I wasn’t at all convinced that yesterday’s announcement of a crackdown on the drugs trade that drives so much crime provides the answer.

To me, it had all the hallmarks of a Government talking tough, but honestly, we’ve heard it all before. Boris Johnson’s 10-year plan will, he says, disrupt the lives of dealers by removing passports and driving licences, and introduce harsher sentences.

So what’s new? Every Government for the past 40 years has promised to get tough on crime and make life difficult for those who commit it, yet the figures for offences have broadly risen throughout that period.

The only really new thing that might achieve results is the proposal to put more money into getting convicts off drugs, which could conceivably stop them re-offending to get the money to pay dealers.

Call me cynical, but I can’t help feeling that playing the familiar card of getting tough on crime is as much designed to detract from the Government’s current problems as it is a genuine attempt to stop people being burgled or assaulted.

With sleaze returning to haunt the Conservatives, an out-of-control immigration problem on the south coast and a growing realisation in northern constituencies that promises to give them a better deal aren’t delivering anything at all, this is an administration in dire need of something that makes it appear purposeful and in charge.

The party of law and order’s record on the issue is exceptionally poor. On its watch, police numbers have declined to the point where chief constables warn that their forces face being unable to perform as they would wish, or the public expects. We’re yet to see the results of Mr Johnson’s eye-catching pledge of two years ago to recruit 20,000 additional officers.

They are needed as a matter of urgency. The police response to the burglaries where I live has been to increase night-time patrols, and it’s reassuring to see officers cruising around the streets looking for people up to no good.

But they know, and all of us living locally know, that it is just a temporary measure. Within a week or so, it will be gone, and the next time any of us sees officers around, they will be investigating another break-in.

Read More

Read More
Hundreds of extra police officers recruited in Yorkshire in nearly 18 months – b...

Yes, by all means have a long-term strategy to crack down on drugs, especially the county lines gangs which ensnare the young.

But it isn’t enough. My neighbours and I would like to see action now, not in 10 years’ time, to get tough on crime.

Once again this Government is promising jam tomorrow. In years to come there will be less crime, just as some time in the future there will be better roads and railways in the north, and more money for social care and the NHS. It’s a hard promise to believe when all of us know the reality is crime comes walking down the driveway with impunity any time it likes.