Prime Minister’s crime blitz: The key proposals revealed today
- League table 101 and 999 call-answering times;
- Online platform to allow the public to contact police, with a named officer in each local area;
- Permanent relaxing of conditions on the use of section 60 stop and search powers;
- New ‘victims’ law’ to codify their rights;
- Backing of Greater Manchester Police scheme for an officer to attend every burglary;
- More officers to deal with ‘the tiny minority of truant kids’;
- ‘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;
- Crack down on county lines drug gangs to be intensified and more testing of suspects after arrest;
- £17m to persuade stab victims to stay away from violence;
- £45m for specialist teams in schools in violence hotspots;
- More money for targeted patrols, increased street lighting and CCTV.
Boris Johnson today vowed to force yobs to work in ‘fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs’ as part of his Beating Crime plan, prompting an immediate backlash from human rights groups, Labour MPs and business leaders.
The Prime Minister, enjoying his first day out of self-isolation, revealed the raft of proposals alongside Priti Patel this morning, with the Home Secretary arguing that more outdoor community service would allow people to see ‘justice done’ in public.
Unpacking the idea, Mr Johnson said: ‘If you are guilty of anti-social behaviour and you are sentenced to unpaid work, as many people are, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t be out there in one of those fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs visibly paying your debt to society.’
Chain gangs traditionally saw prisoners shackled together to carry out menial tasks in public, and are commonly associated with the 19th-century American Deep South – although the Home Office today confirmed the PM’s comments were a ‘figure of speech’.
The intervention provoked anger, with human rights group Liberty tweeting: ‘Talk of chain gangs shows this plan has nothing to do with making communities safer. It’s designed to create more stigma and division. A short-term stunt that will cause long-term generational harm.’
Sam Tarry, a Labour MP, said: ‘Spin about bringing back ”chain gangs” is a clear diversion from the Govt’s abject failure to deal with crime and the causes of crime.’
Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: ‘This is a policy driven by the desire for favourable headlines. It has nothing to do with tackling crime or making people safer.’
James Timpson, the chief executive of the Timpson Group, also expressed concerns, tweeting: ‘Instead of making offenders wear high viz jackets in chain gangs, how about helping them get a real job instead? In my shops we employ lots of ex offenders and they wear a shirt and tie. Same people, different approach, a much better outcome.’
Outdoor community service is already widely used across Britain, with Mr Johnson introducing his own ‘payback London’ scheme in 2008 while Mayor, but the Government wants to make it more visible to the public.
Other policies announced today include relaxing restrictions on stop and search to tackle knife crime, fitting burglars with 24-hour GPS tags, providing a named police officer for each local area, and releasing a ‘league table’ of police forces for how quickly they answer 999 calls.
Labour slammed the document as 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.
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Boris Johnson today announced a plan to boost outdoor community service, referring to ‘fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs’. He is seen in 2008 launching the ‘payback London’ scheme while he was mayor, which involved low-level offenders doing menial tasks like cleaning up graffiti
Mr Johnson’s comments provoked anger today, with critics including human rights group Liberty and Labour MP Sam Tarry
Mr 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
Liberty said easing the restrictions on Stop and Search would ‘compound discrimination’ in the UK, while Ms Abbott called the proposal ‘alarming and counter-productive’.
John Apter, the chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, today slammed the plans as a ‘gimmick’ as he lambasted a pay freeze that saw the group declare it had ‘no confidence’ in Miss Patel.
A letter delivered to No10 today read: ‘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.’
Mr Johnson defended the resources being put into the police, telling reporters during a visit to Surrey Police HQ: ‘What we are doing is investing massively in the police.
‘When I stood on the steps of Downing Street two years ago I said I wanted another 20,000 officers on the streets of our country.
Chain gangs: Origins in the 19th-century Deep South
By Harry Howard, History Correspondent for MailOnline
The chain gang has its origins in the late 19th century, in the southern states of the US. The system was used to keep convicts together when they were working outside prison walls.
Chain gangs were brought in when the brutal system of forced penal labour, which was known as convict leasing, began to be phased out. That system saw inmates, who were overwhelmingly African-American, ‘leased’ long-term to plantation owners to work on their land
Following Georgia’s example, the chain gang ‘reform’ method spread to other American states and saw mostly black convicts build roads, dig ditches and carry out farm labour.
The chain gang has its origins in the late 19th century, in the southern states of the US. Above: Black labourers chain gang labourers working in Georgia in the late 19th century
Chain gang prisoners were often worked fiercely by men armed with whips and guns, and living conditions were horrendous. By the late 1940s, most chain gangs had disappeared and the practice had been eliminated entirely by the early 1960s.
Historian Douglas A Blackmon previously told CBS: ‘The chain gang initially began as a reform of the terrible abuses that had been going on in the prison system. But immediately the chain gang became as terrible, infamous and notorious institution in the south as convict leasing had been.
‘Men sent to the chain gang – and a much smaller number of women sent to chain gangs – were being held by the Government rather than by private contractors. But they experienced many of the same abuses that happened with convict labourers before.
‘They were chained together, oftentimes day and night, they were subject to the most brutal kinds of punishment; rarely fed enough; rarely provided even the most minimally acceptable housing or medical care; lives… of terrible abuse.’
‘We are now almost half the way there. We are putting £15.8 billion into supporting our police. But of course it’s been a tough time financially for the whole country.’
But Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow home secretary, described the Beating Crime Plan as a set of ‘rehashed policies’ that ‘won’t make our streets safer’.
‘The Conservatives are all talk and no action when it comes to tackling crime,’ he said. ‘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.’
From ‘chain gangs’ and 999 league tables to a named police officer for every local area… MailOnline unpacks the Beating Crime Plan
High-vis ‘chain gangs’ of offenders cleaning up public places
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.
Mr Johnson today said he wanted hi-vis ‘chain gangs’ to act as a deterrent to people getting involved in anti-social behaviour.
He told reporters at Surrey Police HQ: ‘I do think that the lockdown has driven some anti-social behaviour and we need to deal with it. That’s why we are backing the police in the way that we are.
‘But I also want to see those who are guilty of anti-social behaviour properly paying their debt to society. Somebody’s anti-social behaviour may be treated as a minor crime but it could be deeply distressing to those who are victims.
‘If you are guilty of anti-social behaviour and you are sentenced to unpaid work, as many people are, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t be out there in one of those fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs visibly paying your debt to society.
‘So you are going to be seeing more of that as well.’
Writing in the Daily Mail today, 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.’
Relaxing Theresa May’s restrictions on stop and search
Stop and search powers for police are set to be permanently enhanced under Mr Johnson’s new strategy to tackle crime.
The plan will include a permanent relaxing of conditions on the use of Section 60 stop and search powers, under which officers can search someone without reasonable grounds in an area where serious violence is expected.
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.
It lifts conditions imposed under the Tories in 2014 when Theresa May was Home Secretary.
Stop and search is the most controversial element of Mr Johnson’s crime plan, and today prompted a backlash from civil rights campaigners.
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
1,500 more burglars, thieves and robbers to be given 24-hour tags
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.
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.
Today, Boris Johnson defended the wider use of Stop and Search powers, insisting it was not a ‘strong-arm’ tactic but a ‘kind and loving’ way to get dangerous weapons off the streets.
‘I disagree with the opponents of Stop and Search. Section 60 Stop and Search orders, I think, can play an important part in fighting crime,’ he told reporters at Surrey Police HQ.
‘They are not the only tool that we have got to use. They are part of a range of things we have got to do to fight street crime.
‘I think that giving the police the backing that they need in law to stop someone, to search them, to relieve them of a dangerous weapon – I don’t think that’s strong-arm tactics, I think that’s a kind and a loving thing to do.
‘The people who often support stop and search most passionately are the parents of the kids who are likely themselves to be the victims of knife crime.’
Policing minister Kit Malthouse also 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.’
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.
A thousand ex-cons to join the civil service
The government wants to boost job opportunities for former prisoners to reduce the risk of reoffending.
A summit will be held later in the year to boost opportunities for prison leavers to get jobs, and the Government will aim to recruit 1,000 ex-offenders into the Civil Service by 2023.
‘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.’
Meanwhile, former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott called the proposal ‘alarming and counter-productive’.
Other proposals to tackle street crime include more money for targeted patrols, street lighting and CCTV.
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
League tables for police forces on their speed of answering 999 and 101 calls
Police forces will be ranked in league tables according to how quickly they answer 999 and 101 calls to respond to the public’s pleas for help.
PM backs GMP pilot to send an officer to every burglary
Today the government backed an initiative from the new chief constable of Greater Manchester Police to send an officer to investigate every burglary.
Stephen Watson became the first police chief in the country to commit publicly to sending an officer in person to every domestic break-in, which he acknowledged were usually a ‘very big deal’ for the victims.
He said after being sworn in this May: ‘I’m 48 hours into the job, but in the future you will not have the situation where people’s homes are burgled and the police don’t come – that’s not happening.
‘We will investigate all burglaries and that will involve physical attendance of premises’.
The Beating Crime Plan said ministers would ‘evaluate’ the results of the scheme.
The government will work with the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services to draw up the rankings.
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.
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.
But the government said it was important for the public to understand how responsive their local force was to enquiries.
National online platform to allow the public to contact police with a named officer for each local area
The Beating Crime Plan vows to ensure that that every single person living in England and Wales will have access to the police digitally through a national online platform.
This will ‘allow them to access a range of interactive police services in one coordinated place’, including details about their neighbourhood police officers and their contact details so that they can get in touch with them to raise concerns.
Mr Johnson put policing at the heart of his campaigning before the last general election, pledging to recruit 20,000 police officers following criticism that cuts to numbers under previous Tory governments had damaged community policing.
Today’s move follows long-held concerns about the severing of ties between police and local communities resulting from a reduction in regular patrols.
Mr Johnson said the Government was setting out ‘plans to back the police but also to back the public’.
Action to reduce court waiting times amid Covid backlog
The document vowed to speed up court waiting times to ensure speedier justice, but did not give any detail about how ministers planned to do this.
Around one in five (18 per cent) of cases had been outstanding for a year or more in the three months to December last year, the Ministry of Justice revealed in March.
This is three times as high as for the same period at the end of 2019 (6 per cent) before the coronavirus outbreak.
Out of 55,725 cases at the end of 2020, 9,421 had been waiting one to two years to be dealt with – the highest figure in records dating to 2014.
The ‘outstanding duration’ for cases over two years, 866, is also a record for the series.
Out of 37,374 cases for the same period in 2019, there were 1,779 waiting one to two years and 433 waiting more than two years.
That would mean ‘if you are the victim of a crime you have a named police officer that you can go to, wherever you live’.
He added: ‘What you need is somebody who understands what’s going on in your neighbourhood, who understands who the likely miscreants are, who understands whether the thing you are reporting – the crime that you are experiencing – is a one-off or part of a trend.’
£17million to encourage youths to stay away from knife crime, crack down on ‘truant kids’ and £45m for schools in violence hotspots
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.
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.’
The government also pledged £45m for specialist teams in schools located in violence hotspots. Today’s document said these would ‘support young people at risk of involvement in violence to re-engage in education’.
Ministers also vowed to direct officers to deal with ‘the tiny minority of truant kids’.
More testing for drugs offenders
There were a raft of promises to tackling the drugs trade.
A scheme to support addicts piloted in Blackpool will be expanded to eight other areas, and police use of drug testing on arrest will rise with the aim of cracking down on recreational drug use.
New ‘victims’ law’ to codify their rights
One eye-catching proposal is for a ‘victims’ law’ to codify their rights in legislation and hold criminal justice agencies to account for delivering them.
However, no more information was given about this proposal so it is difficult to understand what it could entail.
A cross-Government summit will also be held with the aim of reducing demand for drugs, and an annual homicide summit attended by officers from the forces with the highest rates of violent deaths will also take place.
The report also vowed to continue work ‘dismantling’ county lines drug gangs.
Countering fraud – the UK’s ‘most widespread crime’ – and online hate-mongerers
Fraud offences have boomed during the pandemic, and is now Britain’s most widespread crime, the government said today.
It vowed to unveil a new ‘action plan’ to tackle offenders, which will involved £25m of funding for Action Fraud, the main UK police unit tasked with countering fraud and financially-motivated cyber crime.
The Beating Crime Plan also touched on abuse on social media, vowing that this area would be included in a new hate crime strategy published this autumn.
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.
Ministers pledge to make officers feel ‘more valued’ despite pay freeze
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.
He 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 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.
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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