Letter: How solving fewer crimes enables police to catch more criminals

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The Independent Online
Sir: Heather Mills and Terry Kirby highlighted two frightening trends this week: an unprecedented decline in police clear-up rates, and the blighting of working-class areas on Tyneside. The two are undoubtedly connected.

Probation officers in inner cities across England and Wales have reported high levels of unemployment, poverty and disillusionment for several years. Inner cities such as Tyneside have seen gradual disinvestment in housing, social services, education, health and community support. At the same time employment and training opportunities have collapsed.

The response from central government has been containment. The police appear to be spending a greater proportion of the time on public order matters and less on apprehending individual suspects. The probation service has been pushed over the last five years by the Home Office, through circulars and statutes, into a more controlling and punitive role. The prison department has opened an additional 20 jails to take out of circulation those individuals who are caught and convicted of serious offences.

The situation is now acute. The root of the crime problem is no longer the fear of unemployment but rather the realisation that there is no longer any hope of long-term work. The proportion of residents living in depressed communities such as Tyneside who are the victims of crime will increase markedly.

The financial implications are clearly immense, but the trends suggest that the high levels of crime, the trashing of poor neighbourhoods and the destitution will not be contained in the estates for much longer.

Yours faithfully,

HARRY FLETCHER

Assistant General Secretary

National Association of Probation Officers

London, SW11

24 February

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