Leigh Observer Column - 12th February 2019

Brexit is dominating national and international politics at the moment but it is important that as your MP I continue to champion your local concerns in Westminster and to our local leadership.  Unfortunately, in recent months, I have seen a significant increase in people contacting me about an increase in crime, including both anti-social behaviour and violent incidents.

Last year, I ran a local crime survey to find out more about the crime and anti-social behaviour concerns that constituents have and I received a huge amount of feedback showing the extent of these concerns. This added to the weight of evidence from people contacting me in person at the office, by email, or through my social media that more needs to be done to tackle these problems.

After hearing your concerns, I met with the Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service, Nick Hurd MP, and have urged the government to increase police funding for our towns. Last year’s budget announcement of an additional £34.7million in funding for Greater Manchester Police showed that the government had listened, although more money is needed.

Just a few weeks ago, Atherton Councillor Stuart Gerrard quite rightly pointed out that it is now vitally important that this funding gets directed to the areas that need it most. Last week, I spoke about the concerns in Atherton during a debate in the House of Commons that was dedicated to discussing anti-social behaviour and the devastation this can cause local people.

However, it is important to remember that decisions also need to be made locally to curb local crime. This is why I have written to the Mayor of Greater Manchester, urging him in his role of Police and Crime Commissioner, to ensure that Atherton, and the local area, gets its fair share of this funding in light of the recent increases in crime.

It is not just my constituents that I need to keep up to date with. Being in regular contact with our police is also an important part of my role, so that I can represent their concerns and also tell them about the concerns local people raise with me.

When I recently met with our local police, they reassured me that they are aware of these concerns over rising crime and are making changes to resolve this. Local people have told me that they feel that the police presence in our community is not visible enough, which is why during our meeting I emphasised the need for a greater police presence in our community.

The primary role of our police is to deter crime, rather than picking up the pieces once crimes have been committed. By this time, the damage and distress to people’s lives has already been caused. I believe that a greater neighbourhood policing presence plays a vital role in crime deterrence and will also allow local people to feel safer on their streets.

Despite people’s concerns over policing, we must also recognise the broader role that our criminal justice system plays in the deterrence of criminal activity. It is my view that giving longer sentences to criminals will not only punish those who commit crimes but also deter others from doing the same.