Crime attitudes ‘can only get worse’

By Alex Stevenson

The gap between perceptions of rising crime and the reality is only likely to increase, a former policing minister has warned.

David Hanson, policing minister for the final year of Gordon Brown's New Labour government, suggested cuts in police funding threatened the progress made in the final three years of New Labour's period in power.

Last week figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed two-thirds of people in England and Wales believe crime had risen at the national level during a period when the estimated number of crimes had actually fallen from 10.4 million to 9.5 million.

The ONS' updated crime and justice chapter of its Social Trends survey suggested Labour had failed to address public concerns about crime levels, despite police funding increasing by 44% in real terms between 1995/96 and 2009/10.

Mr Hanson suggested the number of people who thought crime had risen between 2008/09 and 2009/10 was likely to increase because of the coalition's spending cuts.

The police budget is set to fall by 20%, a move which has been heavily criticised by the opposition.

"The difficulties they're going to face is a very severe economic challenge at a time when they're reducing policing funding by around 20% over four years," Mr Hanson told politics.co.uk.

"They're going to reduce the number of police officers that are around on the street. The difficulty will be as to whether the trend in falling crime will continue at the same time as people's confidence in crime levels."

Ministers have introduced crime-mapping on a ward-by-ward level to give the public more information about crime locally.

Thirty-one per cent of adults in England and Wales thought crime had gone up at the local level, the ONS' figures showed.

"If I was sitting where he [current policing minister Nick Herbert] is now, I'd think 'we're trying to do more policing with less resources'," Mr Hanson added.

"Confidence is about visibility, understanding and being in touch with local issues, and the trend in falling crime. I'm not sure whether the trend in falling crime will continue."