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Police Numbers (South-East)

30. Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations he has received on police numbers in the south-east. [5171]

Mr. Denham: I have received a number of representations from forces in the area covered by the Government offices for the south-east and London since April 2001.

There have been six representations by means of parliamentary questions and an Adjournment debate. There have also been written representations from hon. Members about police numbers in Sussex and Thames Valley. I have had representations from the City of London police about its resources.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary meets regularly with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, the Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority and the Mayor of London at which a range of issues are discussed, including police numbers.

There have been two representations about police numbers in the Essex police.

Police numbers in the Government regions for the south-east and London and the Essex police as at 31 March 2001 are set in the table.

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ForcePolice numbersIncrease over March 2000Civilian support staff numbersChange over 31 March 2000
City of London703-29233-52
Metropolitan police(9)24,878-60710,040-565
Thames Valley3,703-371,891+105

(9) Most of the reduction in policy numbers in the Metropolitan police is due to the boundary changes on 1 April with Essex, Hertfordshire and Surrey. These changes will therefore have contributed to the increase in police numbers in Essex and Surrey for 2000–01.

Speed Cameras

31. Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the guidance issued on the siting of speed control cameras. [5172]

Mr. Denham: Since speed cameras were introduced in 1992, they have been sited in accordance with guidance set out in Home Office Circular 38/92. This specifies that they should be located where there is a known history of accidents and the major contributory factor is excessive speed. The Home Office is currently working with the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR), the police and local authorities to produce firmer guidance on siting, visibility and signing.

Avon and Somerset Police Authority

32. Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make increased funding available to the Avon and Somerset police authority. [5173]

Mr. Denham: Under the funding settlement for 2001–02 Avon and Somerset police authority set a budget of £189.7 million. This was an increase of 4.7 per cent. over 2000–01.

The police authority received an increase in grant supported funding of £7.7 million (4.4 per cent) in 2001–02. The force will also benefit this year from an allocation of £O.993 million from the rural policing fund. Provision in 2001–02 for 67 officers recruited last year under the Crime Fighting Fund (CFF) will be about £1.69 million. In addition, if the force's forecast of recruitment for this year holds, it will receive about £0.99 million for 51 CFF recruits agreed for 2001–02.

Drug Abuse

33. Mr. Viggers: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will establish a Royal Commission to examine the law on drug abuse. [5174]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to the question from the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) on 2 July 2001, Official Report, columns 15–17.

Rural Policing

34. Peter Bradley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the effect on crime levels of the increased funding for rural policing; and if he will make a statement. [5175]

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Mr. Keith Bradley: During the 2000–01 financial year, police authorities in rural areas received £15 million from the police modernisation fund to improve policing in rural areas. For the 2001–02 financial year, police authorities received £30 million.

Police authorities are required to publish a statement on how the money has been, and will be, spent in their annual policing/best value performance plan. This statement includes what aspects of rural policing were or will be targeted for improvement; what level of improvement was or will be achieved and how the impact of the police in rural areas will be enhanced. Police authorities can use the suite of best value performance indicators to demonstrate the improvements in policing.

Antisocial Behaviour Orders

Judy Mallaber: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he is taking to extend the use of antisocial behaviour orders. [5138]

Beverley Hughes: Antisocial behaviour orders (ASBOs) are one measure in this Government's drive to control disorder on estates and in communities. I am determined that ASBOs play their proper part in reducing crime and disorder. We have conducted a research review of the effectiveness of ASBOs during their first two years in operation. We will announce later this year our detailed conclusions on how to extend their use.

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many antisocial behaviour orders have been applied for and issued in (a) the north-west and (b) Wales. [7695]

Mr. Denham: There is known to have been some under-recording of antisocial behaviour orders (ASBOs) in a few police force areas. With the co-operation of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), we are therefore undertaking a one-off reconciliation exercise to establish any differences between the numbers of ASBOs known to the police and the data from court returns. I will write to the hon. Member when the information becomes available.

Police Numbers (South Wales)

Mr. Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to meet the chief constable of south Wales police to discuss staffing of police stations in south Wales. [5145]

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Mr. Denham: I have met the chief constable on a number of occasions mostly in his capacity as president of the Association of Chief Police Officers. We have discussed a range of issues including the resourcing of the police service.

It is for the chief constable to determine staffing levels at police stations in south Wales. He will assess local needs in line with operational priorities and the force policing plan and allocate available resources accordingly.

I am told by the chief constable that in September the force had 3,217 officers, which is a record number. Between March and September this year police numbers in the force increased by 117. The force also had 1,235 civilian support staff.

Young Offenders

Barbara Follett: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the measures he is taking to reduce youth offending. [5155]

Beverley Hughes: We have introduced a wide programme across Government to tackle those factors which lead young people into crime. This includes initiatives which focus on the family; tackle deprivation; and address absenteeism from school, under-age drinking and drug misuse.

We have also transformed youth justice by cutting delays, expanding the options available to the police and courts and establishing new national and local structures. We are currently introducing the intensive supervision and surveillance programme for persistent young offenders, and next April referral orders will start operating nationally.

Police Recruitment and Retention

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on police retention and recruitment. [5157]

Mr. Denham: Police numbers rose to 125,519 at March 2001 following the largest single annual increase in police numbers since 1988–89. In the 12 months to 31 March forces recruited 64 per cent. more officers than the previous year. Wastage remains low compared with other occupations at under 5 per cent. of strength.

The upward trend in police numbers will continue as the impact of the crime fighting fund increases. We expect the total number of police officers to reach 128,000 by March 2002 and 130,000 by March 2004.

Violent Crime

Mr. Fallon: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on levels of violent crime. [5160]

Mr. Denham: Crime overall has fallen under this Government. The most recent British Crime Survey, which is widely recognised as providing the best picture of long-term trends in crime, shows a drop in violent crime of 4 per cent. between 1997 and 1999. But we know

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from the increase shown in police recorded crime figures that level of violent crime remains too high and we must continue to do all we can to reduce it.

Our strategic approach to tackling violent crime is based on improving support for victims, more efficient, intelligence-led policing, more effective punishment, dealing with the causes of violent crime and tackling the conditions which breed violence.

Last year we gave £20 million to the five metropolitan forces which account for nearly three quarters of all recorded robberies, specifically to assist them in meeting their five-year robbery reduction targets. They have used the money to introduce a number of new initiatives and to reinforce good practice. These include the targeting of hotspots (including transport routes) and offenders based on better intelligence, higher visibility of uniformed officers on the street, mobile CCTV vans, a range of publicity measures, improved recording, scene of crime management, investigation and identification techniques; youth diversion measures, the creation of safe routes into city centres, and targeted anti-mobile phone theft campaigns.

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