Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360 - 379)



  Q360  Ms Buck: Chief Constable Spence, what is your assessment of the impact of population change and mobility on your resources for policing?

  Ms Spence: It is immense. I believe that the Committee visited Peterborough six or seven months ago.

  Q361  Chairman: We have not, but I am sure we will at some stage.

  Ms Spence: It was probably somebody from the cohesion team who visited. In many respects the position six to nine months ago is not the position today. I have been doing a lot of research to understand it. There has been a good deal of press coverage about the Polish community going home. I wanted to know exactly what the reality was. It is as you say; there is tremendous churn; we are in an era of super-mobility. Some males are leaving but families are arriving. The number one nationality now going through "New Link", which is the receiver of new arrivals in Peterborough in particular, is Czech-Slovak, not Polish. We have lots of new nationalities in the communities that we did not have six to nine months ago: Albanians, Russians who purport to be Poles—there are some immigration issues in that regard—and now new Arab communities from Morocco and Egypt. We also see seasonal or weekly commuting where people have different work patterns. I understand that worker registration is down nationally by 17% but it has decreased by only a small amount in Peterborough. We have no idea exactly how many there are in the black economy.

  Q362  Chairman: What is the answer to Ms Buck's question about resourcing issues?

  Ms Spence: There is tremendous pressure. While officers are dealing with either crimes or victims they cannot be doing other things. The real resourcing issue is the fact that one has to translate issues, whether they involve on-the-ground problems or those in custody where investigations take two or three times as long. A Police and Criminal Evidence Act review that an inspector could deal with in 10 minutes could take 90 minutes in the case of someone for whom English is not his or her first language. There are basic day-to-day problem-solving issues. There are also incidents we now investigate that we would not have investigated in the past, labour and sex trafficking being examples. There is pressure all round. That is why we have recruited PCSOs to provide language skills. We got to a point where we could not do our job properly if we did not have language skills.

  Q363  Ms Buck: I think that is a very fair assessment based on experience elsewhere. Research has been published recently. In terms of the incidence of criminality by new communities, is it your experience that that trend is consistent with the general population or are there different patterns of criminal activity?

  Ms Spence: There has been no crime wave per se. The pattern is similar to that for the rest of the community except for certain pockets. For example, we have identified that particularly where alcohol is concerned there is much more alcohol-fuelled criminality. Forty per cent of our detainees for drink driving, for example, are migrants particularly from Eastern Europe. We know there is under-reporting. Talking to hospitals we know that there is a pattern of assaults in relation to debt recovery, and in some communities because of their background and previous experience there is an issue of confidence in the police and a reluctance to report crime. But in relation to day-to-day policing and criminality there is a lack of understanding of the law particularly, motoring offences. We also find that they do not understand that once they have been disqualified they cannot drive, so there are frequent arrests of disqualified drivers. In terms of normal criminality it mirrors the resident population but it takes twice or three times as long to deal with it.

  Sir Simon Milton: In Westminster there has been a specific issue with pick-pocketing by organised gangs mainly from Romania. The other specific crimes where we have noted a difference which can be linked to recent migration are begging, fraud and pick-pocketing.

  Q364  Chairman: Do you agree with the chief constable that there has been no crime wave per se because of the patterns of migration?

  Sir Simon Milton: Yes, we would. Nationally, there has been no crime wave but there are instances of local spikes in certain types of criminal activity, much of it low level, for example driving offences and so on.

  Q365  Gwyn Prosser: Chief Constable, we have been told that the Home Secretary having received your report on the impacts of immigration has agreed to consider new ways of additional transient funding and you are preparing more information in that respect. What are your views at the moment about how that can be achieved, measured and be fairer?

  Ms Spence: To go back to funding per se, we have had only a 0.3% increase in the way the formula operated this year. The Home Secretary announced there would be a transitional fund. That was already in existence but it was unclear whether or not the police could apply for it. Therefore, that is something that emerges from some of the new immigration policies and funds, for example how people pay for visas or whatever to enter the country. It is that fund which will be redistributed but no doubt we will be at the door of that fund with colleagues from other agencies as well. It is not a new fund just for policing as became clear after the announcement was made. We wait to see what the reality on the ground will look like. That will not be available until 2009 at the earliest.

  Q366  Gwyn Prosser: Is there a continuing dialogue between, for instance, ACPO and the Home Secretary on the issue of funding the special impacts of immigration?

  Ms Spence: The next migrant impact forum will look particularly at the impact on policing, but again that forum does not necessarily have any money attached to it. We have not seen any money coming directly into policing for the impact of immigration. It is run through the formulas. As Sir Simon said, when the formulas are run on population where the data is outdated and does not reflect the reality of what happens on the streets today it means that areas with net outward migration get the same amount of money as areas of net inward migration. Therefore, some are able to deal better with the situations they face but those with additional pressures suffer because they have the same amount of money they had prior to that migration.

  Q367  Gwyn Prosser: You have no set view on how the shortfall should be addressed or the formula changed?

  Ms Spence: Because the formula is based on many factors some changes would be advantageous. There must be some methodology within government to respond to rapid change. As my colleague said, before 2004 when I went to Cambridgeshire there was normal migration into and out of the county. It is a dynamic county with a high-tech industry, so it is used to a churn of population, but there has been a rapid influx. There is nothing within government to be able to respond to the rapid changes that have happened. That was where the problems arose. The funding formulas are not rapid and flexible enough to deal with change.

  Sir Simon Milton: In direct response to Mr Prosser, the LGA put forward the suggestion that there should be a contingency fund for which councils experiencing rapid changes in population could bid and it would take some time for the formula to catch up with them. We put forward a proposal that that should be a fund of £250 million which equates to 1% of the total revenue support grant to councils nationally. Unfortunately, the government did not think that was a good idea.

  Q368  Chairman: Are you still pursuing that idea?

  Sir Simon Milton: We are, but what government has said is that rather than establish such a fund it wants to have a much better understanding about specific costs and impacts. Quite recently there has been a meeting with Hazel Blears and a number of hot spot councils on migration. That was very productive in getting the government to understand some of the actual pressures. I hope that that dialogue continues.

  Q369  Tom Brake: Chief Constable, you have identified areas where there has been a growth in crime. For instance, you have highlighted alcohol-fuelled motoring offences. Would you be able to give us now, or possibly in writing, some statistics over the past two to three years—the period of peak migration—just to confirm precisely the numbers?

  Ms Spence: We have trawled some figures and data. The problem that faces the Police Service currently is that it does not record nationalities. The work we have done to understand the picture is to trawl through it case by case, but we have some data which shows particularly drink driving and the figures for other crimes.

  Q370  Tom Brake: It would be useful if you could provide that to the Committee. Sir Simon mentioned that migrants were more likely to be victims than perpetrators of crime. Is that your experience, and do you have any statistics from your force to support that?

  Ms Spence: One way to get a good identification of the issue is by looking at translation budgets. Half of that goes to dealing with the custody and justice processes and half to other community cohesion issues. Of the half that goes to custody issues, one half goes on offenders and the other half deals with victims. Therefore, from our perspective there is as much victimisation as there is offending. Members may well have heard this morning that in the GLA they are identifying interesting dynamics in worker exploitation. There is some under-reporting but some quite serious undertones in relation to work trafficking and sexual exploitation which are very worrying.

  Q371  Tom Brake: Are those the specific crimes of which you detect migrants are more likely to be victims, or can you highlight other types of crime?

  Ms Spence: If we look at some of the intelligence, currently we are working with colleagues in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and UKHTC particularly in relation to work trafficking. Underlying some of that picture are instances of kidnapping, rape, the taking of passports, assaults and also insidious deductions from pay for housing administration etc that are probably excessive for the contributions that the gangmasters make to individuals. The exploitation tends to be by Eastern Europeans on Eastern Europeans. There is a mix and it is something that is not as well understood as it needs to be. Currently, we are working very hard with colleagues to understand exactly what it looks like.

  Sir Simon Milton: Several councils have given evidence to us about an increased incidence of migrants being the victims of hate crime.

  Ms Spence: If one looks particularly at the offences which I did not cover, antisocial behaviour is an issue but it arises in relation to social factors. One has houses of multiple occupancy and people spill over and relax outside. With their use of alcohol they make a noise and upset people and this causes racial abuse. This is a cyclical process which needs to be nipped in the bud to get people to live and work in harmony. A good number of the neighbourhood teams spend a lot of time trying to get people to live in harmony.

  Q372  David Davies: Chief Constable Spence and Sir Simon, I appreciate the way that you have put across your evidence, but I say with all due respect that in some ways it appears you may be trying to have your cake and eat it. On the one hand you say you need more money because of the increase in crime; on the other you say that immigration is not causing any increase in crime. For example, how can you say to us that immigrants are more likely to become the victims than the perpetrators of crime when, as you have also made clear in your evidence today, you do not collate the nationality of crime perpetrators? How can you make that statement? The reality is that we do not know the number of people who are committing crimes and where they are from?

  Ms Spence: I cannot give you accurate data year on year, but we have done a lot of our own trawling. I cannot give you the national data, for example, but in Cambridgeshire we have looked at it because it is so important to understand it and I can give you data and figures if you want them. Once people say that the police have an issue in relation to immigration they automatically think of crime. Policing is more than crime; it is also about community cohesion. What we have is a work wave, not crime wave, which covers all aspects of dealing with immigration into the county. I have an increase in arrests but I also have an increase in victims.

  Q373  David Davies: To be fair, many of those people are probably victims of crime carried out by others who have migrated into the area?

  Ms Spence: That is true.

  Q374  David Davies: It is not really possible for the Association of Chief Police Officers to say there is no evidence to support theories of a large crime wave generated through immigration when at the same time you and many other police officers say that a lot of people you deal with are foreign and recent arrivals in this country. Liam Byrne himself has said in evidence to the Committee that he does not collect national crime figures based on the nationality of the individual. Therefore, you cannot say one way or the other; the evidence is not there to make the statement that immigration is not causing crime.

  Ms Spence: I think the evidence is there.

  Q375  David Davies: There is no evidence that it is but there is no evidence that it is not either.

  Ms Spence: The issue about whether or not there is a crime wave is that crime is proportionate to the amount of people in the country. Just because you come into the country as an immigrant does not make you more or less likely to commit crime. The fact that we have a number of new people in the country means that, like the resident population, a proportion of them will commit crime. Some of it is because they have criminal tendencies; some of it is because they do not understand the law and how we operate within the UK, so there is an education process to go through. The evidence of this is there and I can give it to you in spades.

  Q376  David Davies: I would like to see it. You have said there have been spikes in certain crimes with some nationalities being disproportionately more likely to commit them. I am married to an Eastern European and I agree with this. I note that Sir Simon was candid enough to mention Eastern Europe as being a particular feature in driving. I have also been told by one ethnic minority police officer that knife crime is a problem. I am more or less happy to say which of the countries it is; it is white and Eastern European. One of the other countries happens to be in Africa and I am less likely to name it because all of us feel uncomfortable about singling out countries, but do not all of us have a duty to say there are certain countries—it is nothing to do with ethnicity—in certain continents where there seems to be a greater problem than in neighbouring countries?

  Ms Spence: We have identified some communities that have a greater propensity to carry knives because that is what they do at home.

  Q377  David Davies: Are you happy to name any?

  Ms Spence: Initially, it was the Iraqi Kurds who carried knives; we had the Poles and Lithuanians who carried knives. A lot of the work we have done with them has been to tell them not to do so and we have noticed that knife crime has gone down. We have named those countries in the past, but my officers should not be blind to the fact that anybody in the community, as we know in relation to London and the UK, will carry a knife. It is not about picking out people specifically and saying they will be more or less likely to do this. However, if it is normal for a person to carry a knife in the country from which he comes we need to educate him pretty quickly so he does not carry one here.

  Q378  Chairman: Sir Simon, would you like to comment on that?

  Sir Simon Milton: To go back to the issue of cost raised by Mr Davies, it is very difficult to establish a figure in relation to individual nationalities or crime, but we know that because of long-term net inward migration and the population churn there is somewhere between one and one and a half million people living in Britain for whom there has been no public expenditure provision through the normal formulae because they were not expected. However one cuts it, there are increased costs to local public services. We cannot give you precise figures and say so much is for crime and so much is for the impact on education, but in any area that has experienced this migration there are pressures on public services which currently we have no way to address other than by stretching resources more thinly.

  Q379  David Davies: I do not disagree with what you say. Is it the case that many police officers in London will say that, sadly, a number of the people with whom they deal are recent arrivals to this country, not necessarily black or Asian but quite often Eastern European, and certainly are not indigenously British?

  Sir Simon Milton: Certainly, the police to whom I speak in Westminster will say that as you get different waves of migration from different parts of the world very often accompanying that you have a type of crime that might be characteristic of that group, but we are a country with lots of people coming and going. You just have to manage these things.

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