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LIB DEMS HIT BACK OVER LABOUR'S ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR SPIN

July 9, 2004 12:00 AM
Parmjit Gill and Sikh Policeman

Parmjit Gill says it is time for solutions not spin in tackling crime

Liberal Democrat shadow Home Secretary Mark Oaten today hit back at allegations that, by opposing the Government's Antisocial Behaviour Bill, the Liberal Democrats are somehow "soft on crime".

Mark Oaten launched a 10 point plan for tackling crime and antisocial behaviour in Leicester. He said:

"After six years, Labour's record on crime is appalling. Violent crime is still unacceptably high, clear-up rates are unacceptably low, and huge amounts of money are wasted on sentences which do little to reduce offending. "Why? Because the Government are more concerned with what looks good in a press release than with what will actually reduce crime and antisocial behaviour in our towns and cities.

"As the Home Secretary has admitted, police and councils often don't know the powers they already have at their disposal. This government has introduced an avalanche of new legislation as a smokescreen for its failure to make the existing laws work.

"There were some good measures in the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill, such as new powers to close down crack houses and restrict the use of air guns and imitation weapons, and we supported these. However, we could not vote for a package which mixed the good with the profoundly bad.

Short-term fixes in housing and policing are likely to cause more problems than they solve.

"The police themselves had concerns about the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill. The Association of Chief Police Officers warned that the dispersal powers would 'not be enthusiastically used' because they would be likely to create divisions between the officers and the communities they police.

"Labour are all spin and soundbites. While they concentrate on looking tough on crime, the Liberal Democrats concentrate on being effective on crime. Unlike Labour we are proposing constructive, realistic and workable solutions to anti-social behaviour."

Liberal Democrat 10 point plan for tackling crime and antisocial behaviour:

1. More police, with 21st-century equipment, out on the street not stuck in the station filling in forms.

2. Use Community Support Officers and Neighbourhood Wardens to reduce anti-social behaviour, issue fixed penalties, co-ordinate the removal of graffiti and litter, and act as the 'eyes and ears' of the police on the ground.

3. Reduce the number of prisoners who come out and reoffend by linking release dates to the ability to fill in a job application form.

4. Better enforcement of the many existing powers to tacklenoise, graffiti, litter, truancy and loutish behaviour.

5. Local hotlines to report noise, harassment, graffiti and vandalism, with a quick response from a police officer or a civilian officer, depending on the nature of the incident.

6. Tough and intensive community sentences, with non-violent offenders doing compulsory work under close supervision to pay their debt to the community. Local people should be able to nominate the projects that offenders have to work on.

7. Encourage all local authorities to use Acceptable Behaviour Contracts and Parental Control Agreements, measures developed by the Liberal Democrats which Home Office research has shown to be

successful.

8. Intensive residential 'treatment' programmes for out-of-control tenants and families at risk of eviction, instead of the current 'evict and forget' approach

9. Tackling binge drinking by getting tough on rogue landlords that allow customers to get out of control. Pubs and clubs should make a financial contribution to the policing of binge drinking hotspots.

10. More positive programmes to avoid young people becoming alienated and socially excluded, including more support for sports and arts activities, combating bullying and truancy in school, and boosting the role of the youth service by placing it on a statutory footing.