Austerity had negative impact on crime, says former commissioner

Nick Alston, former Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex. Picture: SU ANDERSON

Nick Alston, former Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex. Picture: SU ANDERSON - Credit: Su Anderson

A former police commissioner has blamed austerity for having a negative impact on crime.

Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Essex from 2012 to 2016, responded to the Government’s plan to tackle rising knife crime and drug-related violence by arguing that past failures to balance priorities against future needs had been a root cause of today’s problems.

Last week, the Government published a Serious Violence Strategy – underpinned by £40m of Home Office funding and a promise to step up efforts to tackle city gangs branching into rural or coastal towns, using children and vulnerable adults as couriers.

But the Home Secretary came under fire after a leaked report suggested cuts had “likely contributed” to the rise in serious violent crime.

Mr Alston, now Anglia Ruskin University’s Policing Institute chairman for the eastern region, said Amber Rudd then “shifted blame” on PCCs by attributing some of the rise to a drop in community support officer.

Writing on The Conversation website, he said: “While serious violence, of course, has to be firmly and thoughtfully policed, I firmly believe it is not possible to ‘police and prosecute’ our way out of this and other crime challenges.”

Mr Alston said government had to be wary of setting too many centrally imposed priorities, especially in the absence of significant extra resources.

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“More resources for the police and other agencies would help them get to grips with the underlying problems,” he added.

“But let’s also debate the essential need for better partnerships between organisations deploying modern technologies and the rich data sources now available.

The Home Office said last December’s funding settlement followed a robust assessment of demand faced by every force.

It said funding would be increased by £460m, including £280m drawn from increased council tax precept contributions.

“The Government has been clear that extra demand cannot be managed only through additional funding,” it said.

“The settlement has enabled each PCC to protect their funding in real terms (including precept), but this must be matched by a serious commitment to reform and improve productivity and efficiency to deliver a better, more transparent service to the public.”

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