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Crime (Local Communities)

Volume 548: debated on Monday 9 July 2012

The Government are radically reforming the approach to tackling crime, shifting accountability away from Whitehall and directly to communities. We have provided the public with greater information, invested in neighbourhood policing and police community support officers, and increased direct accountability through beat meetings. This year, the public will be empowered through the election of police and crime commissioners—a landmark reform of policing that will increase accountability at the local level.

Noisy neighbours and noise disturbance often blight the lives of those living in urban areas. What tools is the Home Office providing to help local communities to tackle this problem, particularly when police are unable to intervene?

I am sure that all Members have people coming to their surgeries with noise complaints that have gone on for years uninvestigated. As part of the reforms set out in the recent White Paper on antisocial behaviour, we propose to introduce the community protection notice, which will give front-line professionals a single flexible power to deal quickly with any inconsiderate behaviour that is affecting a community’s quality of life. The notice will also give the police new powers to deal with antisocial noise. We are putting power into the hands of local communities with the new community trigger—

It may be too long for the hon. Gentleman, but it is a darn sight more important to the people who live in these communities and want to use the community triggers.

In Codsall, we have had to deal with a recent traumatic event when our scout hut was subjected to an arson attack following a period of antisocial activity in its vicinity. Does the Minister agree that the community triggers will go a long way towards empowering local communities such as those in Codsall to make sure that such things do not happen in the future?

It is upsetting when, after a number of complaints, a situation ends in something like an arson attack on a scout hut. It is very upsetting for the local community. Many police forces, councils and social landlords are working hard to deal with antisocial behaviour, but there are cases where communities report this same problem over and over again, and nothing is done. My hon. Friend is exactly right: the community trigger will ensure that, if necessary, everyone has a clear and simple way of making sure that the authorities take a problem seriously before it escalates.

Guidance for door supervisors on the seizure of identification documents such as passports and driving licences from those suspected of using friends’ passports or driving licences to enter pubs and clubs was withdrawn some months ago, pending revision. There is no interim guidance and no date for new guidance, so how can we be assured that, without such guidance, these documents will not be unlawfully seized and destroyed or enter the criminal or terrorist underground?

Faced with the impossible pressures generated by a 20% cut to its budget, leading to 1,200 police officers going, the admirable west midlands police service has told the community of Quinton in Birmingham that the local police station can stay open, but only if they agree to man it. Is this the Home Secretary’s vision for the future: a new approach towards community policing that says to local communities, “Man your own police station”—and ultimately, I presume—“Arrest your own criminals”?

I understand that there is a low footfall at that police station. However, community volunteers are a very good thing for police stations, and I can inform the hon. Gentleman that crime in his area is down by 7%.