HC Deb 12 July 2004 vol 423 cc1123-4
18. Helen Jones (Warrington, North) (Lab)

What recent assessment he has made of the contribution of community support officers to reducing crime and antisocial behaviour. [183101]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart)

At the end of June, there were 3,802 community support officers on patrol, and reports from forces that deploy community support officers indicate that they play a considerable role in reassuring the communities that they serve, that they provide a high-visibility presence, and that they have significant potential for impacting on low-level antisocial behaviour and disorder. A national evaluation is being planned, which will inform the future development of this role.

Helen Jones

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. From my discussions with CSOs in my constituency, and from the time that I have spent out on the streets with them, may I tell her that they make a considerable contribution, not only to providing reassurance for people but to working with other agencies in the area to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour? Will she tell the House when she thinks the assessment of their effectiveness will be completed? What chance is there of making sure that there are more CSOs out and about on our streets to contribute to making the public feel safer?

Fiona Mactaggart

The evaluation of the current achievements of the CSO force will be completed by the end of the year, but I hope my hon. Friend will find that the conclusions of the Home Office strategic plan accord with her ambitions for the improvement of CSO provision.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con)

In York and north Yorkshire we do not have too many community support officers, and not too many antisocial behaviour orders have been issued. How can we ensure that more are issued in the area, given that the Government have made them the main tool for controlling antisocial behaviour?

Fiona Mactaggart

The hon. Lady is right to recognise the importance of adequate numbers of officers to deal with antisocial behaviour issues effectively. That is why 11,000 more police officers have been provided throughout the country since this Government came to power. We find them in every community—in Yorkshire, in Leicestershire and in the west midlands. All over the country there are more police officers, and we have given them the set of tools that they require, including antisocial behaviour orders. It is up to local authorities to ensure that they use the ASBO powers we have given them to tackle this nuisance, rather than tolerate it.

Mr. James Plaskitt (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)

We have 40 community support officers in Warwickshire—they are very welcome, and do an excellent job—as well as a record number of serving police officers. Nevertheless, many communities in my constituency would like a still greater police presence on the streets. CSOs are ideally placed to perform that role, and to develop strong relations with the community. Can my hon. Friend assure us that we will continue to expand the available supply of CSOs?

Fiona Mactaggart

For information about national supply, my hon. Friend will have to wait—as I hinted earlier—for the Home Office strategic plan. I hope that he finds it pleasant reading. He should, however, join us in welcoming the fact that not just Home Office expenditure is ensuring that we have CSOs throughout the country. Nearly 1,000 are funded entirely from other sources. Dealing with crime in our communities is such an important job that communities themselves are willing to raise the resources to provide CSOs who will tackle nuisance behaviour, and I welcome that where it has happened.