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Crime Figures

Volume 569: debated on Monday 28 October 2013

Our police reforms are working and crime is falling. Recorded crime has fallen by more than 10% under this Government, and the independent crime survey shows that crime has more than halved since its peak in 1995.

Between 2011-12 and 2012-13 recorded street-level crime in Bracknell fell by 12%, and recorded antisocial behaviour by almost one third. Does the Home Secretary agree that it is possible to save taxpayers’ money and reduce crime at the same time?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Both our constituencies are served by Thames Valley police, and I am pleased that since 2010, crime has fallen by 25% in the Thames Valley police area, including a fall of 30% in my constituency. My hon. Friend is right. Those who said that when police budgets were cut the only thing that would happen would be for crime to go up have been proved wrong. I commend the work of all the police officers and staff who have contributed to those good crime figures.

There has been a 30% increase in reports of rape, and yet a dramatic fall in the number of rape cases referred for prosecution. What is the Home Secretary doing about that?

The hon. Lady is right to draw attention to that—we need to look at the matter very seriously. I am happy to say that the Minister for Crime Prevention is doing so. In addition, the Home Office has sat round the table with national policing leads and the Crown Prosecution Service to consider why we are seeing that most recent trend, and to develop a plan for ensuring that cases are referred to the CPS when it is right to do so.

The 12% fall in crime excluding fraud will be welcomed in Wiltshire by my constituents, but businesses repeatedly find themselves victims of seemingly invisible but none the less criminal behaviour online. What support is being given to businesses to tackle those online thefts?

First, the Office for National Statistics now includes figures on fraud reported to Action Fraud in the police recorded crime count. That is an important step forward—we now get a more accurate picture. Crucially, following the launch of the new National Crime Agency, we have established within it an economic crime command, which will enhance our ability in this country to deal with a variety of economic and financial crimes, including the fraud my hon. Friend describes.

The Home Secretary will be aware not only that rape statistics have gone up, but that the figures for child abuse have gone up hugely as well. Five years ago, 50% of rape offences were referred to the CPS, but now only 30% of rape and abuse of children offences are referred. What will the Home Secretary do about that? Does she believe that 20% cuts to the police might have something to do with it?

No, I do not accept the premise on which the hon. Lady’s question is based. We are looking very seriously at the question of child abuse. That is why my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims was involved in setting up a group across Departments on the question of child abuse and child sexual exploitation to ensure we can deal as effectively as possible with that most horrific crime.

Crime will fall even further if we can make bigger reductions in police bureaucracy. Front-line officers using body-worn cameras have the potential to reduce the amount of paperwork they have to do back at the station. Will my right hon. Friend indicate how many police hours she believes could be saved by that new technology, which has been endorsed recently by the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims?

My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. I had informal discussions about the use of body-worn cameras at the college of policing last week. I am pleased to say that a number of forces have piloted the use of such cameras. The college will look at best practice so it can ensure they are used as effectively as possible. They will not only reduce the bureaucracy that the police are involved with, but provide greater and enhanced ability to deal with crimes and provide the evidence in criminal circumstances. They will also benefit officers when accusations are made about their behaviour—often, the body-worn camera will show when such accusations are not correct.

Crime has fallen overall thanks to the development of neighbourhood policing under a Labour Government. With the thin blue line stretched ever thinner, there are disturbing signs of a generation of progress in some areas being reversed. Since the general election, shoplifting is up in 23 police areas and mugging is up in 15 police areas. There has been a staggering 44% increase in mugging in London. Does the Home Secretary therefore share the concerns of Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary that that which has proved to be so successful and is so valued by communities throughout our country—neighbourhood policing—“risks being eroded”?

May I first welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new role on the Opposition Front Bench? I am not sure that his question was the best approach for him to take. I am very sorry that he has failed to recognise the work being done by police officers and staff around the country to ensure that overall levels of crime have fallen since 2010. I would hope he welcomes the work they are doing. HMIC has made it clear that forces, in taking the budget cuts, have focused on ensuring front-line resilience. That is a very good example of how it is possible to do more for less.