We take seriously the fear of crime wherever it occurs and we are taking steps to reduce crime and the fear of crime. According to the 2006-07 British crime survey, younger people have the highest levels of worry about violence and car crime and are more likely than older people to be victims of crime. Older people are less likely to be victims of crime than other age groups. However, their fear of crime is disproportionately high when compared with their low risk of being a victim.
The British crime survey for 2007 records overall crime falling by 32 per cent. since 1997 and 5.5 million fewer victims than in 1995, yet fear of crime continues to paralyse too many lives, both old and young alike. What discussions has the Minister had with the Youth Justice Board and Department for Communities and Local Government colleagues about Age Concern recommendations to have regular intergenerational meetings in all communities so that young and old alike can discuss their fears and counter the destabilising threat of age-related segregation?
I know that my hon. Friend works closely with Age Concern in his constituency, and as a former magistrate he knows the importance of different generations working together. At a recent conference, we discussed the issue of intergenerational liaison to enable elderly and younger people to discuss fear of crime. It is often said that there is a difference between older and younger people. There might be such a difference in perception, but it is in everybody’s interest—whether they are old, middle-aged or young—to reduce crime and the fear of crime.
The understandable fear of crime felt by my rural constituents of all ages is partly based on their awareness of the fact that national police targets are forced on local chief constables, and in their circumstances that means the concentration on urban crime leaving too many isolated rural communities at the mercy of travelling intimidating thieves. How long will it be before local chief constables get more scope to decide their own priorities, rather than following those of the Home Office?
I think that the hon. Gentleman would accept that all levels of crime in all areas of the country have fallen dramatically over the last 10 years, and he should also accept that with the new police assessment framework we have ensured greater scope for local chief constables to determine their priorities. One of the best ways to ensure that local people get the policing they want is the roll-out of neighbourhood policing, which was completed on 1 April.
Alongside that, people in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency will be helped by the Home Secretary’s announcement that, from July, local crime information will be published, which will allow his constituents to see how well the police force is doing and help them to establish the priorities that there should be in each area.