LAW and order and the protection of the public is incredibly important.
Enabling people to feel safe and secure as they go about their lives and business is the hallmark of a decent and civilised society.
In contrast, when criminal and anti-social behaviour rears its ugly head, the knock-on effect is huge.
Good and decent people tend to leave the area as fast as they can, investment dries up, meaning fewer job opportunities, and those left behind are often the vulnerable, elderly and marginalised, feeling frightened to leave their home and with their quality of life significantly compromised.
That is why a proactive police presence on the streets is so valuable. We all rely on the police to keep us safe and protect our communities. It provides a very visual sense of public protection and reassurance. The bobby on the beat is as valuable now – if not more so – than in the days of Dixon of Dock Green, even though the world is very different.
Neighbourhood policing has been an essential part of making decent people feel secure in their communities and having that sense of reassurance.
It has worked particularly well in Hartlepool. I was proud, when I chaired the local strategic partnership, to approve money to be spent in conjunction with Cleveland Police, to kick-start neighbourhood policing and to enable Hartlepool to be the pilot for the scheme.
That early investment has reaped huge rewards, as neighbourhood policing has embedded into the town and crime has fallen.
The neighbourhood police presence in Hartlepool is a major asset for our town. The officers attend residents’ meetings and community events and are well known throughout the town.
Constituents often say to me that the work that the officers do in their area is a real source of pride and reassurance. They are much more able to actively prevent crime rather than react to criminal activity after it had happened.
We should never be complacent about this matter, however, and vigilance and constant monitoring is vital to keep our streets safe.
That means having a constant and high police presence to deter criminals and to reassure the public. Neighbourhood policing is an important part of this.
I am concerned that the scale and pace of the Government’s cuts is having an impact on the service that the police can provide to Hartlepool.
In the Cleveland Police area, over the three years since the Government has been in office, there has been a drop in operational front-line police officers of 259, a fall of 17.6 per cent.
This is second only to Nottinghamshire in the scale of front-line cuts and more than double the national average of 8.6 per cent. Throughout the country, more than 10,000 police officers have been lost from the front-line.
You may have seen in the news today that former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens has this week published his Independent Police Commission Review.
This is the most comprehensive analysis of policing that has taken place for 50 years.
It makes several recommendations on the future of policing in England and Wales, including a wish to see renewed focus on neighbourhood policing.
I am concerned, with almost 20 per cent of frontline police being cut already in the last three years and more cuts to be pushed by the Government in the next few years, neighbourhood policing could be under threat.