HC Deb 06 January 2004 vol 416 cc316-20W
Dr. Kumar

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much money has been invested, and how many schemes have received funding(a) in Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East, (b) in the north-east and (c) in total under the Building Safer Communities initiative. [144748]

Ms Blears

Under the Building Safer Communities Fund (BSC), the following allocations were made in 2003–04 to the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs) covering the Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East constituencyMiddlesbrough CDRP—£312,409 for 20 schemes Redcar and Cleveland CDRP—£168,331 for 13 schemes

The North East total allocation for 2003–04 under BSC is £3,549,624.23 CDRP plans were approved and are operational across the region in the current financial year.

Direct funding under BSC to CDRPs in England and Wales totals £72.3 million in 2003–04, involving 376 CDRP plans, each of which includes numerous projects and schemes.

Dr. Kumar

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action is being taken in(a) Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East and (b) the north east to help crime and disorder reduction partnerships deliver crime reduction; and if he will make a statement. [144749]

Ms Blears

A wide range of activities is taking place in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, and also in the north east as a whole, to help Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs) deliver crime reduction. These are normally funded through Home Office programmes such as the Building Safer Communities Fund, Building Capacity Fund, and Basic Command Unit Fund.

Examples of activities that draw on Home Office funds include, in the Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East area, a dedicated drugs unit being introduced in the Redcar and Cleveland CDRP, and a `Dealer a Day' initiative initiated by the police commander. This initiative has led to over 950 arrests and the recovery of substantial quantities of drugs, cash and stolen goods. In the East Cleveland area specifically, Home Office funding has led to CCTV schemes in Saltburn, Guisborough, Loftus, and Marske. In Middlesbrough, recent initiatives have included tackling burglaries in sheds, garages, and outbuildings, and tackling vehicle crime by focusing on `at risk' groups and locations e.g. subsidised security devices, additional security patrols.

In the north east as a whole, significant developments include the establishment of a multi-agency Regional Drugs Intelligence Unit at a cost of £500,000 over two years, funded by the Home Office Police Standards Unit, and the extension of intensive criminal justice intervention programmes to Newcastle, Sunderland, Hartlepool, and Stockton in addition to the existing programme in Middlesbrough.

The Government Office for the north east provides advice, training and support to all the CDRPs in the region. They act as a conduit for sharing best practice between partnerships, for example, funding a seminar in Middlesbrough for CDRPs across the country with similar characteristics to Middlesbrough, to share common issues and solutions. They regularly attend CDRP meetings to offer advice and information on funding and good practice and to support performance improvement.

The Home Office has introduced a self-assessment framework (SAF) for Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships and Drug Action Teams in England and Community Safety Partnerships in Wales to assist them to improve their performance as partnerships. The SAF is a useful tool to promote continuous improvement in both strategic and operational delivery of the crime reduction and misuse of drugs agendas.

The Home Office are also updating the existing guidance for partnerships on audits and strategies in preparation for the next round of triennial audits which partnerships must produce by April 2005. This new web based step by step toolkit will be available on the Crime Reduction Website from February 2004.

Key crime levels have fallen steadily in the north east in recent years. Between 1998–99 and 2002–03 vehicle crime has fallen by 23 per cent. and domestic burglary has fallen by 25 per cent.

Dr. Kumar

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action is being taken in(a) Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East and (b) the north east (i) to reduce gun crime and (ii) to disrupt drugs markets; and if he will make a statement. [144750]

Caroline Flint

We are developing a strong programme to tackle gun crime on a number of fronts, includingtackling the links to drug supply and crime; reducing the supply and availability of firearms; effective police operations to drive down firearm offences; tough laws and effective enforcement; engaging the worst affected communities to address the underlying gun culture. In Middlesbrough, Cleveland police operate a dealer-a-day policy whereby they undertake to arrest at least one drugs dealer in the town every day, 365 days a year. It has recently completed its second year of operation and since its launch on 3 December 2001, 926 people have been arrested. Drugs including cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, amphetamine, and cannabis have been recovered with a street value of nearly £950,000. Officers also seized over £200,000 in cash during the raids. Prison sentences exceeding 200 years have been given by the courts, coupled with other forms of sentencing ranging from fines, community work and community rehabilitation, to suspended sentences, supervision orders and drug treatment and testing orders. In July the scheme was extended to cover East Cleveland in July 2003 and similar success is expected there.

Regionally, with the support of Government Office North East, the Police Standards Unit has funded the establishment of a Regional Drugs Intelligence Unit based at Durham Constabulary which brings together analysts from the three north east police forces in one dedicated unit to improve intelligence led work to tackle middle market drug dealing across the region. Set up in October 2003, this unit's work will link in to other information and intelligence gathering initiatives already underway in the north east, including asset recovery.

The north east, and the Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East area in particular, experiences relatively low levels of gun crime. For this reason, Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships prioritise actions on addressing drug crime, burglary and vehicle crime in these areas.

We are taking action to tackle the misuse of air weapons. The Anti-Social Behaviour Act will: raise the age limit for owning air weapons from 14 to 17; restrict their use without adult supervision; ban the carrying of replicas or air weapons in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse; and ban the sale, manufacture and import of tandem cartridge air systems, such as the Brocock, and require the licensing of those already held as they are particularly vulnerable to conversion to fire live ammunition.

Dr. Kumar

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many Government-funded schemes resulting in the installation of CCTV cameras have received crime and disorder reduction partnership funds in(a) Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East and (b) the north east since 2001. [144751]

Ms Blears

Under the Crime Reduction Programme CCTV Initiative, two funding rounds were introduced.

Six schemes were approved in Middlesbrough and six in the Redcar and Cleveland Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP) areas.

45 schemes in total were approved for the north east.

Dr. Kumar

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action is being taken to strengthen co-ordination of local partnerships to ensure they are able to deliver the crime and drugs agenda in(a) Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East and (b) the north-east. [144752]

Ms Blears

The Home Office and the Government Office in the North East Region (GONE), are working with Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs) and Drug Action Teams (DATs) to ensure the further integration of their work. Guidance on integration was issued to CDRPs and DATs in November 2003. The aim is to simplify local working relationships, give greater recognition to common interests and provide the right framework to enable the effective delivery of the crime reduction and drugs agendas. The crime and drugs teams have been fully integrated within GONE since June 2002.

Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland, which are both unitary authorities, are working towards integration of their CDRPs and DATs by April 2004. To support this process the Home Office has introduced a self-assessment framework (SAF), which will enable CDRPs and DATs to assess their performance as partnerships and will assist the GONE in managing the improvement in both their strategic and operational delivery.

Dr. Kumar

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on(a) improved information sharing between crime reduction partnerships and (b) the sharing of good practice techniques between police forces; and how such practices have benefited the residents of Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East. [144754]

Ms Blears

Effective data exchange and analysis is a prerequisite of productive partnership working and crime reduction. Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRP) are encouraged to share information to tackle crime and criminality more effectively within their partnership.

The Home Office Crime Reduction and Community Safety Group is working with the Government Offices in the regions to ensure effective information sharing and data analysis.

The Government Office for the North East is working with every agency in the North East Region who are partners on CDRPs to enhance their data in order to facilitate information sharing, and has developed an IT solution, North East Region Information Sharing System (NERISS), to this end.

Middlesbrough is being used as a pilot site for local data sharing on burglary dwelling to support problem solving and best practice experience nationally.

The Government Office has also been carrying out a research project on Effective Practice and will compile a compendium of all of the initiatives of a crime and disorder nature in the Region. The findings will be published on the internet for use by all practitioners as a Best Practice library.

One of the main roles of the Home Office Police Standards Unit (PSU) is to exchange good practice in order to support the improvement of police performance. The Unit has been working with the Cleveland Police Force on several projects to tackle issues such as burglary reduction with the 'Safer Tees Valley Partnership' to reduce repeat victimisation and the introduction of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) forcewide as a tool to improve the detection of all crime. The PSU are currently working with the National Centre for Policing Excellence among other partners to simplify the process of sharing good practice and provide greater access, preferably with a single point of contact.

Government Agencies Information Network (GAIN) is a multi-agency group bringing together intelligence and investigation officers from enforcement agencies in central and local Government to share information for the purposes of crime reduction. The first Strategic Group Meeting of the Regional GAIN Board occurred this month and a range of issues is being progressed within the north-east.

Improved information sharing in Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East and across the north-east has allowed the effective targeting of a number of known criminals. This has contributed to significant reductions in burglary and vehicle crime in the area, especially in Middlesbrough, where burglary fell 22.9 per cent., thefts of motor vehicles fell 15.9 per cent. and thefts from motor vehicles fell 5.6 per cent. between 2001–02 and 2002–03. In Langbaurgh over the same period, burglary fell 20.7 per cent., though thefts of and from motor vehicles both rose.

Dr. Kumar

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on police community visibility schemes with particular reference to mobile police stations; and how he estimates such initiatives can reduce crime in the area covered by the Cleveland Police Force. [144755]

Ms Blears

It is for the Chief Constable to decide how best to deploy available resources according to operational priorities and objectives.

Cleveland Police is in the process of reviewing the accessibility of service to more rural areas of the force where mobile police stations may well be a solution. In addition the force is reviewing Community Policing models, in keeping with the Chief Constable's vision of `Putting People First'. This vision of community policing aims to impact positively on public reassurance in terms of visibility of and accessibility, to officers by providing a minimum level of policing to all communities. This is in line with the National Policing Plan 2004–07 which sets as a key priority for the police service

Providing a citizen focused service to the public … which responds to the needs of individuals and communities and inspires confidence in the police…".