Austerity fuelling rise in serious crime, MPs told

18 Jul 19
Austerity has an “inescapable” link to rising levels of serious organised crime, MPs have heard.

Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee today, Peter McCall, police and crime commissioner for Cumbria, said the key to tackling crimes such as human trafficking, modern slavery and fraud is greater funding, adding “there is undoubtedly a rise in organised crime”.

McCall told MPs that greater resources are needed to fund work to crack down on these crimes – which cost the UK economy £37bn annually - but efforts have been inhibited by years of austerity.

“I think it is inescapable – and I sit here as a Tory PCC – to avoid the issue of resourcing,” he told MPs. “Over the last 5-10 years organised crime has become much more sophisticated, at a time when austerity has been pruning away at police resource.”

Andy Cooke, chief constable for Merseyside Police, agreed and noted that there are now “so many less police officers” than before austerity began.

Cooke also noted that serious and organised crime tends to most prevalent in the most deprived areas.

“I think it’s fair to say that the highest levels of certain organised crime across Merseyside occur in those areas of highest deprivation, where there is more tolerance to organised crime itself and where there is less opportunity for young people,” he said.

Cooke failed to guarantee that police forces were providing good information to other bodies, such as local authorities, on the prevalence of serious and organised crime.

When pressed by the committee, Cooke said: “All 43 [police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland] should be preparing serious and organised crime profiles… which set out the scale of the problem.

“I can’t sit here and say that all 43 of them are preparing them – but they should be.”

McCall said that communicating serious and organised crime rates would be improved by better data sharing.

McCall also noted a difficulty in balancing spending on small-scale crimes and “unseen” crime, of which a large proportion is serious and organised crime.

“I have had letters from people saying ‘If I am paying more money, am I going to see another Bobby on my street?’ but the reality is that they probably are not, because we need to be policing this serious unseen crime.”

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