Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lord Stevens: youth unemployment will fuel disorder on the streets

Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington said that there was already evidence of “disquiet” on the streets and warned that the next two years are likely to prove “very difficult” for the police.
He said police officers needed to be “absolutely match fit” to deal with the threat posed by public disorder and rising crime, and must ensure local communities understand their work or they will face “problems”.
The former Scotland Yard chief was speaking as he launched an independent review of policing, backed by the Labour Party, but which he hopes will result in cross-party talks on “radical” reforms. The 20-strong inquiry team includes former police chiefs from New York and the UK, academics from around the world, a judge and victims’ representatives.
Official figures last month showed that youth unemployment had reached a record one million for the first time, with more than a fifth of 16 to 24 year-olds out of work.
Addressing a press conference at the Royal Festival Hall in London, Lord Stevens said he believed one of the main issues for the police would be “public disorder” over the next 18 months to two years.
“Looking ahead, you can see there is disquiet on the streets – really concerned about youth unemployment, unemployment generally; really concerned about signs of an increase in crime,” he said.
“The police have got to be absolutely match fit to deal with these issues. They mustn’t do it on their own; they must do it together with the community.
“My gut feeling is that it’s going to be a very difficult 18 months to two years. I hope to God I am wrong, but I don’t think I am.”
Lord Stevens, who ended his term in charge of the Met in 2005, recalled how he cut crime and restored order after riots hit the north-east of England, where he served as chief constable of Northumbria Police.
He said it had been “absolutely essential” to give the youth “some hope for the future”, especially as many were from families where three generations had been unemployed.
Last summer’s urban riots showed that public order policing had failed to keep up with events and that his former colleagues had effectively “lost the streets”, he said.
“I think the loss of control of the streets that took place in London was caused by a lack of response by the police at the time,” Lord Stevens said.
“I think it is accepted by the police that they didn’t have enough resources at the time. Someone described it to me as acting a day behind what was taking place. That was an extraordinary business.”
Five or six years ago, properly trained public order officers were able to be deployed instantly, wherever they were needed. “What’s happened in the mean time, I know not,” he said.
Lord Stevens, who appeared alongside Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, said his commission team was working for free and that he hoped to achieve “cross party agreement”.
He insisted he was “apolitical” and had advised both Gordon Brown and David Cameron since he stepped down from the Metropolitan Police.
Ms Cooper said it would have been “better” if the government had commissioned the review. She said she wanted to reach a consensus on the future of policing with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, and would seek talks once the review is completed in early 2013.

No comments: