At the beginning of the week Boris Johnson re-emerged from isolation and put forward his Government’s strategic plans to crack down on crime. Forming a central pillar of his plan for levelling up the country, the bold new measures delineated in the Beating Crime Plan couldn’t have come at a better time.
Whilst insight regarding crime levels over the past year has been distorted by the coronavirus pandemic, the reduction in face-to-face crime has been offset by fraud and computer crime, leaving overall levels unchanged.
Looking back, 2018 saw the highest level of fatal stabbings since records began, alongside a further 7 per cent increase in knife crime in 2019, with London being the epicentre of this crisis. Whilst our capital is under unprecedented threat from individual offenders and criminal networks, the Government’s crime crackdown is both essential and urgent.
The initiative aims to tackle low-level and serious crime to protect the British public and make our streets, houses, and neighbourhoods safer, including measures to reinvigorate stop-and-search, monitor recently released burglars using 24-hour electronic tags, and further expand Project Adder, a scheme to tackle drug networks whilst also providing help to addicts.
In recent years, an unfair amount of criticism has been levied at the instrument of stop-and-search in tackling crime. Nevertheless, retracting the limits placed on police stop-and-search powers under Theresa May’s tenure as Home Secretary is the principal way to counter the greatest law enforcement challenge that faces the Home Office today: knife crime.
By relaxing the conditions contained under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, stop-and-search powers will be enhanced to reduce the number of knives on our streets, which often end up in the hands of our young. Whilst Labour will inevitably push the narrative that such measures are discriminatory, we should be ready to embrace the competencies of our police force and empower them to crack down on violent crime. Moreover, the Prime Minister’s aims to deliver a cross-government summit to construct a comprehensive package of measures that will ensure plans benefit all of society.
Not only does stop-and-search protect victims of knife crime, it also works concurrently to tackle drug-related violence. In fact, much of the rise in serious violence in recent years can be linked to disputes between drug gangs. This presents one of the many reasons why the Government is right to be investing tactically and financially to deal with the problem of illegal drugs: they are the driving force behind crime in Britain. In response to the Dame Carol Black review, the government will be investing £31 million to expand Project Adder.
The initiative, first introduced by Priti Patel and Matt Hancock earlier in the year, presents a nuanced approach to fighting crime, fit for the twenty-first century. Alongside providing extra resources to law enforcement to dismantle organised crime and halt the supply of illegal drugs, it invests in those struggling with drug addiction. By delivering investment to drug treatment and recovery programmes, the Government is on the one hand helping to cut drug-related crime and minimise reoffending, whilst also taking a supportive approach to help those caught in the cycle of misuse.
The Beating Crime Plan does not just consist of reactive measures, however, but further aims to prevent crime by intervening early to keep young people safe and away from violence. By investing over £45 million in specialist teams for mainstream schools and alternative provision, in addition to providing a new £17 million package aiming to help those admitted to A&E from knife crime, the Government is overtly investing in our children’s future and safety.
Nevertheless, whilst the Government’s flagship crime initiative has a wealth of problems to deal with on the streets, Johnson will have to carefully navigate his plans through opposition from the Police Federation, which just this week noted its lack of confidence in the Home Secretary and whose Chairman termed the Beating Crime Plan “just another ill-thought-out initiative.”
Opposition was expected however, and whilst Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary is all too quick to blame the Conservative party for rocketing crime, Keir Starmer has once again criticised the Government’s plans. As Labour continue to blame the Tory’s for nationwide crime whilst standing in direct opposition to their plan to tackle it, they are only exposing their own hypocrisy and contradiction.
Ultimately, Johnson’s new plan delivers on the promise he made in the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto to make our streets safer and empower our police force. Crime always has tended to strike the poorest harder and consume the most vulnerable in society, and thus the Government’s “unstinting” efforts to confront criminality on our streets will serve to level up the country, protect the vulnerable and reform offenders.