Norman Baker MP writes… Proud of the Lib Dem record on crime prevention

Two weeks is a long time in politics. In a few days I’ve gone from high-speed rail, environmental issues, and cycling to anti-social behaviour, drug policy and tackling violent crimes. It was a fantastic opportunity to work in the Department of Transport, and I know Susan Kramer will make an excellent Minister. We have achieved a lot in a short period of time, and I know Susan will continue to develop positive, progressive and sustainable transport policies.

I am very pleased to have been appointed as Minister for Crime Prevention, and continuing the good work which Jeremy Browne has done in the Home Office. Jeremy made significant progress tackling anti-social behaviour and provided thoughtful leadership on drugs policy. I look forward to continuing his work into international drug policy, and have an open mind when it comes to deciding what is working, and what isn’t, in other countries.

As Minister for Crime Prevention, I am responsible for ensuring the Department continues to drive forward policies which cut crime. Two weeks into the job is perhaps a little too early to be taking personal credit for the success of the Coalition Government in cutting crime, but we as a party should be immensely proud of our record on crime reduction. We’ve cut police red tape and ended Labour’s daft obsession with targets. We’ve established a College of Policing to help equip the police with the knowledge and skills to tackle modern crime threats. And we’ve now established a National Crime Agency which has the tools to pursue and convict serious and organised criminals. In opposition the Liberal Democrats ran a campaign proudly entitled: “We can cut crime.” In government we have done it.

Today both the Police Recorded Crime statistics and the independent crime survey show yet another fall in crime. Crime is down over 10% since we came into government. It is consistently falling and now at the lowest level since the official crime survey began, now over 30 years ago. This isn’t a statistical fluke. The Liberal Democrats have worked hard in the Coalition to ensure that we pursue liberal and progressive reforms to the system. It has been a remarkable achievement that we have been able to reduce the costs of policing and protect the public at a time when academics almost universally predicted a rise in crime. Indeed, the fact that these statistics have consistently fallen during a time that the Liberal Democrats have been a party of government is a point that hasn’t been repeated enough.

That is not to say that we can’t do more. Reoffending rates are far too high, and there are too many victims of persistent and prolific offenders. Reports of sexual assault have risen and we have also seen a worrying rise in theft from the person, primarily people having their smart phones stolen.

Whilst today’s fall in crime statistics should be celebrated by the Lib Dems, and deployed in leaflets and on the doorstep, I think it is important for me to touch on the two areas where we have seen a rise in reported crime.

Firstly the rise in sexual offences. A significant increase in the reporting of sexual offences is historic crimes, and we are seeing many more people willing to come forward as a result of the media interest in this issue. This is a good thing. People need to feel that they will be supported when they report these horrendous crimes, and they need to have confidence that police and others will support them throughout any criminal proceedings. This government has been right to focus on putting victims at the heart of the criminal justice system, and I will continue this work. I intend to make protecting and helping the vulnerable in our society – whether it’s the person subject to domestic violence, the exploited worker, or the trafficked child – one of the key areas I focus on in the next 18 months, and I can guarantee that you will hear more from me in the coming weeks on what we will be doing to tackle this issue.

Secondly, we’ve seen a rise in theft from the person. The primary targets for acquisition are mobile phones and tablets, which are becoming an increasingly attractive target for thieves. Indeed, more than 800,000 such gadgets were stolen in the past year alone across in England and Wales.

In my first week I held a summit of mobile phone manufacturers in the Home Office, to discuss how we can design out this sort of crime. We all need to make the most of our phone security features, and we also need to look at new innovative ways of dealing with this problem. Phone manufacturers are now working with the Government to tackle this issue, and again you can expect to hear much more from me on this issue in the future.

It’s too early for me to predict how successful we can be in tackling these two areas of concern. But I can assure you all that I will do everything in my power to tackle these issues over the coming weeks and months.

* Norman Baker is the MP for Lewes, a Minister of State at the Home Office and formerly Minister in the Department of Transport

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  • Congrats on getting into the Home Office as a welcome liberal/Liberal balance to Mrs May!!

  • Ian Stewart 18th Oct '13 - 7:07am

    LDV could do with updating the line at the end of this excellent piece to reflect Norman’s new role!

  • Andy Boddington 18th Oct '13 - 7:30am

    Thanks Ian – done!

  • Peter Reynolds 18th Oct '13 - 12:07pm

    Jeremy Browne “provided thoughtful leadership on drugs policy” is going beyond courtesy to a colleague into the realms of fantasy!

    Browne was actually engaged in enthusiastic support of government propaganda against drug policy reform. His scandalous misinformation on cannabis delivered to the LibDem conference puts him on the side of organised crime and the most disastrous, repressive policy of the “war on drugs”.

    I urge you to take the intelligent, progressive approach to drugs policy that every independent expert advocates, particularly in respect of medicinal cannabis.

    At a stroke, you could agree that when somebody is prescribed medicinal cannabis by their doctor, the Home Office will issue an import licence for Bedrocan, the Dutch governments, safe, high quality product.

    The alternative is that you keep locking up sick and disabled people for using a medicine that is safer than aspirin and you maintain the disgraceful, corrupt and unlawful monopoly granted to GW Pharma:

  • Sergio Rodriguez 18th Oct '13 - 12:33pm

    It’s sad how Norman Baker is out of touch with reality. Crime only fallen on paper, because people don’t bother to report crimes anymore.
    Coppers are too busy dealing with your failure of drugs police than solving real people’s problems.

    Last year Sir Peter’s force received more than 161,000 reports of crime which would mean that nearly 100,000 were not investigated, according to his figures.
    About half of Manchester’s violent crimes were unsolved, along with 80 per cent of robberies. Only 17 per cent of criminal damage offences were solved by police in the city, and just 34 per cent of sex crimes.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 19th Oct '13 - 12:33am

    As a former police officer and now academically involved in the research and studying criminology and policing I personally tend to support Sergio Rodriguez views as to why crime appears to have fallen. I would also tend to question whether crime is even being appropriately recorded when it is reported as officers do tend to have a habit of using ‘their discretion’ in an ad hoc manner, and especially when it may involve doing any paperwork.

    To claim that crime has fallen without the evidence to back this up, and to imply this is as a result of political influence seems rather foolhardy to say the least. If we genuinely wish to reduce crime then their is a need to ‘Get tough on the causes of crime’, such as deprivation, inequality, marginalisation, poor housing, health and education to name but a few factors as anything else is merely a veneer.

    I do though wish Norman Baker the best in his new role and believe with fingers crossed that he could bring about a change of thinking in the Home Office.

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