Boris Johnson has pledged extended stop-and-search powers, tougher sentences and more prison places as he set out plans for tackling crime in the UK.
In an article in the Mail on Sunday, the Prime Minister said ‘I want the criminals to be afraid – not the public.’
Mr Johnson has announced that £2.5bn will be invested into creating 10,000 new prison places and that stop-and-search powers will be extended to an additional 8,000 officers in England and Wales. The pledges come amid calls for extra police and the continuing knife crime crisis.
Mr Johnson said;
“We have the impression of a growing culture of insolence on the part of the thugs; and in the face of that sense of impunity – entirely misplaced – I believe the British public knows instinctively what we must do”
Figures show that stop-and-search numbers have more than doubled in the last two years. According to reports, the use of stop-and-search doubled from 15,557 instances in March 2017 to 33,022 in March 2019.
Home Secretary, Priti Patel, who has also pledged to take a strong line on tackling crime, said;
“Stop and search works. We hear again and again that our police need to be empowered. And as we’re recruiting 20,000 more police officers we need them to be out making sure that those who want to do harm are prevented from doing harm”
The pledges on stop and search powers are somewhat controversial though and have been for many years. Evidence has suggested that stop-and-search powers have disproportionately targeted black people – in 2017-18, black people were 9.5 times more likely to be searched than white people.
Jon Apter, the national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales acknowledged concerns about the use of stop-and-search powers, but speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live he said,
“We can’t have a postcode lottery on keeping the public safe.”
“We are in the grip of a wave of violent crime on a scale we’ve not seen before, with young people being killed or stabbed on our streets, and we have to do something about it”
The new pledges will also come at a cost, adding to the expensive pledges already set out by Mr Johnson’s government since its formation just a few weeks ago. The Prime Minister has also pledged large sums for the health service – just days ago, a fund of £250m was promised to boost the role of artificial intelligence in the NHS in England.
Labour has called on Mr Johsnon to explain where the funding is coming from for the new measures. Louise Haigh, the shadow policing minister told Sky News,
“The criminal justice system is on its knees after nine years of austerity.
“So it’s going to take more than just investment in policing in order to fix the problems that we’ve seen over the last nine year.”
Meanwhile, speaking to Sky News, former Conservative deputy Prime Minister, Lord Heseltine has accused Boris Johnson of “trashing money” by pledging cash for “very clear electoral targets”. Many experts now predict an election in the Autumn, potentially shortly after a departure from the European Union.
Few will disagree that the government’s pledges to take a tougher line on policing are needed, but some are questioning whether they will truly be successful.
Earlier this week, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said the Metropolitan Police needs to employ more officers, and at a much quicker rate pledged by Boris Johnson.
Mr Khan said;
‘We’ve got fewer police officers now than any time since 2003, while the population has risen by two million.
‘Are the police worried about the lack of numbers? The answer is yes.
‘Our police work so hard. They are under-resourced and over-stretched.
In the last three years, knife crime figures have risen by 52% in London alone. Across England and Wales, over 43,000 offences were reported last year.