28 April 2016
The North East England region of the Green Party will not be contesting these elections. The deposit of £5,000 for each of the three candidates in our region is punitive, restricting candidatures to organisations with rich backers. This is quite undemocratic. The position itself is not only too centralised but also too isolated from other agencies with which it should be integrated. The very low level of public participation in past elections may itself reflect a widespread recognition that the track record of Police and Crime Commissioners has been largely unsuccessful.
The Green Party takes the view that policing and crime prevention need a much more holistic approach. Certainly it must be integrated with institutions such as social services and education, and with far more emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation. Indeed we see the issue not just of crime per se but one of justice, fairness and safer communities. Threats to individual security and community wellbeing come from many sources, hence the need for an integrated approach.i
Though we will not be standing a candidate, the Green Party will still be publicising its policies on these matters, including:
Community policing: emphasising the building of constructive relations across the community, with smaller teams, improved accountability and development of partnerships with community organisations; more use of 'bikes and feet' rather than reliance on cars and helicopters; no routine arming.
Inclusive policing: placing particular emphasis on the safety of and proper consultations with minority groups, especially those at risk from aggressive behaviour; due attention to diversity within the police force itself so that it better reflects the community it is serving;
Preventative policing: planning for safer streets; prison as a last resort after treatment and non-custodial sentences; far greater emphasis on restorative justice.ii
Design in housing and other developments that fosters crime prevention:
'Natural surveillance'; 'convivial spaces', reduced traffic, safe play areas, and better product designiii but no to high levels of 'technological surveillance' and 'fortress mentality'.
The Green Party also stresses the importance of accuracy in crime figures, not least due distinction between actual crime rates and perceptions of risk. It is of course very important to pay attention to the vulnerability felt by some sections such as some older citizens, young women or members of the LGTI groups. Nowhere, not least city centres, day or night, should be no-go areas but be accessible for all law-abiding citizens.
We can but note that many crimes, from health and safety violations at work and wildlife crime to violence in the home do not get the proper attention they deserve. 'Moral panics' can sometimes detract from what are the real problems.iv Public policies that condone cheap and readily available alcohol certainly aggravate many problems of public safety. Conversely many small things from the local milk and mail deliverers to concierges and platform staff can help to make people feel safe. Cutbacks, outsourcing, marketisation and deregulation all undermine such potential. Today, new forms of online crime, posing particular threats to children, are presenting challenges that must be addressed but without inappropriate intrusion to areas of legitimate privacy.
Overall, we feel that the creation of truly safe communities is only partly about policing. Indeed, inappropriate policing can often add to the problems of exclusion and alienation. But until the major inequities and systemic forms of exclusion in society are addressed, through social and economic policy, real progress will not be made.
For further information and interviews:
Sandy Irvine, Regional Policy Officer on 0191 284 4367 or 0758 225 7731
iv The stigmatising of asylum seekers is one recent example.