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Crime Reduction

Volume 737: debated on Monday 18 September 2023

Our communities are safer than in 2010, with overall crime on a like-for-like basis down by 54%. We have put 20,000 more police officers on our streets—a record number—which is enabling us to take action across the board to bring more offenders to justice, to better protect victims and to equip our police with the powers they need to prevent crimes.

The fall in crime is welcome, but does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the police would deter and solve even more crimes, such as burglaries, the use of quad bikes and general antisocial behaviour in places such as Hatfield, Doncaster, Rossington and Thorne in my constituency, if they started putting more bobbies on the beat and stopped promoting unscientific ideologies?

My hon. Friend is quite right. We pay the police to fight crime. Whether that is to focus on the antisocial behaviour, the nuisance bikers or the burglaries he mentioned, they are there to keep people safe. We do not pay them to wave flags at parades, to dance with drag queens or to campaign. That is why I finally ended all association with Stonewall at the Home Office and why I expect all police and crime commissioners and chief constables to focus on cutting crime and rebuilding confidence, not playing politics.

I thank the Home Secretary, who recently came to Warrington to meet the chief constable, Mark Roberts, and our police and crime commissioner, John Dwyer. We are now at record numbers of police officers, and alongside that we are at record numbers of arrests. Cheshire had the second-highest charge and summons rates in England and Wales for all crime in the last 12 months. One of the concerns raised by constituents at a recent surgery was the increase in cyber-crime. What steps is the Home Secretary taking to bolster action against fraud and online scams?

My hon. Friend has been an indefatigable champion for his community, and I very much enjoyed joining him at his local police station to meet his excellent chief constable, Mark Roberts, with the PCC. Cheshire is an example of common-sense policing and protecting the public. With those arrest rates and a focus on domestic abuse, on which Cheshire constabulary has achieved some excellence, it deserves all the praise that it gets.

When it comes to tackling online scams and online fraud, which are a feature of modern-day crime fighting, earlier this year, with the Prime Minister, I announced our fraud strategy. One hundred million pounds from the 2021 spending review has gone towards tackling fraud. A portion of that will fund a new national fraud squad of 400 specialist fraud officers across policing and the National Crime Agency, who will investigate the most harmful fraudsters targeting the UK public.

Since 2015, the proportion of crimes that result in a perpetrator facing a punishment has gone down by two thirds. Is that because the Government had a policy of cutting 21,000 police officers?

I am incredibly proud of the increased resources for policing, the increased powers for policing, with the 20,000 new officers on the frontline that the Government have delivered for the British people—a record number; we are at historic levels—and the overall fall in crime since 2010. Yes, there is more to do, but on all those measures, how did Labour vote? It voted against them and against the British public.

The Home Secretary talks about tackling online and telephone scams, and she is right to do so. Age UK recently came out with research that showed that 43% of people aged over 65 have been victims of online or telephone scams of some kind. Will she talk about how she will use that research and extend the resource she gives to police authorities such as in Cumbria, as well as working with banks and other outfits, to ensure that more people are not victims of this outrageous uptick in scams?

The hon. Member is absolutely right—online crime and fraud has become a grave feature of today’s criminality. That is why our fraud strategy is all about targeting this emerging threat. Whether that is through the national fraud squad that I just mentioned, banning SIM farms, increasing specialism on the frontline, or our police forces working with the National Crime Agency, other agencies and, importantly, the tech and banking sectors, we will prevent fraud from becoming a reality as well as detecting it and enforcing against it further down the line.

The Home Secretary seeks to paint a rosy picture on crime. In reality, retail crime is, as described by the Co-op, “out of control”, and with 10,000 fewer neighbourhood police and police community support officers, that is no surprise. Across all retailers, there are more than 850 acts of violence or abuse every single day. The Co-op also reports that even when it detains someone suspected to have committed a crime, 80% of the time it has to let them go again because the police are stretched too thinly to come and make the arrest. When will the Home Secretary drop this pretence that things are going well and actually stand up for our shop workers?

We take these matters incredibly seriously. That is why my right hon. Friend the Policing Minister met the Co-op and other major retailers recently to discuss this issue in detail. Shoplifting and retail theft have become a challenge for retailers and our community, which is not right. That is why, a few weeks ago, we made a nationwide commitment whereby all police forces have agreed to follow every reasonable line of inquiry. That will mean that CCTV footage, online evidence of resale and other actionable evidence will be followed up by the police, leading the investigations and justice process.