The Home Office recently published crime figures and they showed that Greater Manchester had the biggest fall in crime for two years. This relates to the period Oct to December.
The crime figures have now become a political issue. The government of the day publishes them and then the opposition party of the day tries to find holes in them and put a negative slant on them.
So on the positive side crime is down in all categories at a time when it was forecast that crime would rise because of the recession. On the negative side crime rates remain as some of the highest in the country. We have lower levels of violence; murder and gun crime than London and the West Midlands while property crime is higher than in West Midlands but lower than London.
Why is this? Well behind all the spin whichever way it goes the facts are that crime is highest in cities and of course Manchester is the largest city after London (although Birmingham disputes this). What is not in dispute is that Manchester has a far higher level of economic activity than Birmingham and a higher student population. All this creates opportunities for crime.
Crime along with a number of other social problems is also highest in areas of inequality and sadly Greater Manchester scores high on this particular indicator.
Now none of this should reduce our determination to continue the reduction in crime and never accept that high crime is inevitable. We also need to try and understand better why burglary, for instance, is so high in Manchester compared to other cities. Some of this is down to recording practices. When there is a break in at a house that say, six students live in, then we record it as six burglaries which of course adds to the figures. This does not explain the full story and it certainly seems that our offending population specialise in burglary rather than other offences. We therefore need to focus particularly on this problem and during Operation Storm, which targets burglary; we have arrested more than 2000 suspects.
The police cannot do this alone. There is the obvious one of the public taking common sense measures to protect their property and to make it harder for burglars. Even in the cold weather a significant proportion of our burglaries involve insecurities. I am struck that if a landlord wants to rent out a property there are regulations on for instance the safety of boilers and the presence of smoke alarms. There are no such regulations covering the standard of locks and other security measures. Even in some of the modern apartment blocks in Manchester there are basic failings like poor door entry control, lack of door viewers and poor standard of locks.
We also have to concentrate on reoffending. Too many offenders come out of prison and within days are offending again. We have a number of projects working with the Probation Service and other agencies to reduce the reoffending rate. This involves drug and alcohol treatment services, accommodation, training opportunities and anything, which might take them away from their previous way of life, previous associates and the causes of their offending. Some of this might not look like traditional police work but on the other hand it may be one of the most effective things we do to make sure there are fewer victims.
The past couple of weeks have been dominated by football and a huge amount of work has gone into planning for the two Manchester derby games. This has not stopped us concentrating on the day-to-day activities of reducing crime and picking up wanted and suspected offenders.
All the debate on crime figures does not convey the reality of what officers are doing on the street. I have been really pleased to see some excellent examples over recent weeks of officers following their suspicions stopping suspected offenders or vehicles and as a result seizing firearms, drugs and making arrests. In all the science of DNA and the technology of computer systems it is officers following their suspicions and providing a deterrent on the streets, which will always be at the core of policing.