Interrogation in the UK on the new government’s program in urban safety

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In March 2010, a new strategy entitled Safe and Confident Neighbourhood Strategy was issued by the Labour government. Generally well received, the strategy emphasized the need for sustainable policing rooted in the local partnership in which citizens could have total confidence. In April, statisticsfrom the British Crime Survey on the one hand and figures recorded by the police on the other hand, showed that crime had fallen by 7% over the year 2009.

The general elections of May saw a liberal / conservative coalition coming to power. In a context of economic crisis, the new government has announced cuts in public budgets and many reforms in several areas. The main points of the reform agenda ahead in safety and crime prevention are:

  • Reform of the responsibility of the police (reporting to the public through regular meetings) and direct elections for police authorities;
  • Association of elected neighborhood, as central actors of neighborhood partnerships with the police;
  • Improved public confidence toward the police and local authorities that they address the problems of crime and antisocial behaviors that matter locally;
  • Restriction of budget allocations for activities related to safety to save money by avoiding duplication and achieve better results through implementation of joint actions by different departments;
  • Regulation of video surveillance;
  • Limiting the use of covert surveillance techniques by local authorities;
  • Abolition of the Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) that evaluated in detail the activities and performance of local authorities;
  • Creation of a border police;
  • Measures to support victims;
  • A “rehabilitation revolution” of former detainees in order to reduce reoffending, based on a competitive voluntary sector by providing monies on results;
  • Reform of laws permitting the sale of alcohol 24hrs;
  • Prohibiting the sale of cheap alcohol by supermarkets.

The annual conference of the National Community Safety Network (NCSN) held in Belfast from June 15 to 17 has allowed the local community safety practitionners in the United Kingdom to express their doubts regarding the budget allocated to police and local partnership actions.

It seems however that they approve significant relief of many indicators to examine and evaluate public policy. The argument used is that you can produce as much security services with declining resources without resorting to major productivity gains and economies of scale – especially on the basis of partnership actions.

The announcement of the simplification of procedures considered highly bureaucratic is greeted with some optimism. One factor to consider is the government’s willingness to decentralize a number of elements in a country traditionally highly centralized. However, the technicians have wished to stress that additional power allocated to local authorities should be accompanied by resources that match the ambitions in terms of reduction of insecurity and crime prevention.

A press release from NCSN has been issued.

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