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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 14:58 GMT
Six Forum: Cracking street crime
Chief Superintendent Rick Naylor answered your questions in a live forum for the BBC's Six O'clock news, presented by Manisha Tank.

To watch coverage of the forum, select the link below:

  56k  


The former mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, has received an honorary knighthood from the Queen for the role he played in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

Through his political career, Mr Giuliani has also been credited with cleaning up New York's mean streets. Since 1993, major crime in that city has fallen by 39% and murder has fallen by 49%.

On his visit to London he is set to discuss "zero-tolerance" policing with the Home Secretary, David Blunkett.

Pioneered by the New York Police Department, zero tolerance - or positive policing as some prefer to call it - is how the UK government hopes to fulfil its promise to be "tough on crime".

Do you think zero tolerance is the answer? What are you experiences of crime? Is enough being done in the UK to rid the streets of criminal activity?


Highlights of the interview


Newshost:

John, Manchester, UK: I believe that zero tolerance works but is it the best way of reducing crime? Can you also explain what zero tolerance is?


Rick Naylor

I'll take your second point first; it might set things in context. Zero tolerance is, as the words suggests, no tolerance whatsoever of any form of criminality or offences of disorder. We jump on the little things and from jumping on the little things and dealing positively with that, the serious things don't occur. It's been widely acclaimed as having a positive effect in places like New York and it been tried in various places up and down England and Wales in a very small way. But we do have zero tolerance of criminality. Policing methods in this country rely quite heavily on discretion by the officers out there on the beat and patrolling in our communities.


Newshost:

Michael, UK, Isn't there a danger that zero tolerance paves the way to a police state?

Ryta, UK: We need to beware that zero tolerance doesn't degenerate into zero confidence in the police. What safeguards should be in place to ensure this does not happen?


Rick Naylor

The British police service prides itself in being not only the guardians of communities but also guardians of individuals' civil liberties and we have a very good piece of legislation with the Human Rights Act that enshrines that now in that now in law in the United Kingdom. So that the police have to have regard to the Human Rights Act with every thing that they do. So that in itself is a safeguard and will prevent it becoming a police state.

I think what we've to concentrate on here is zero tolerance in a very targeted way. A targeting aimed at the criminality that's affecting all our communities up and down the country - things like street robbery, burglary and other offences that affect our quality of life.


Newshost:

Binx, UK: What negative effects can you see from the use of this policy in New York and do you think they would similarly affect us if it was adopted here in the UK?


Rick Naylor

I've been to New York since Mayor Guiliani brought in the zero tolerance in Manhattan and it's certainly made the place a lot safer and the physical presence of police officers in Manhattan certainly makes you feel safe when you walk about. But both have a very high cost and it's whether the British public are willing to pay that cost because what we'd need in the United Kingdom is a substantial increase in the number of police officers above and beyond the 130,000 that the Home Secretary has already said his pledged to bring into being before 2003.


Newshost:

Paul, UK: Isn't it fair to say that zero tolerance policing will never work as well here because the New York's police department's budget is far superior to that of the Met?


Rick Naylor

The first thing that Mayor Guiliani did when he announced his programme of zero tolerance was to recruit another 8,000 police officers for New York. I am sure that the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London would love another 8,000 police officers to police London. It costs money and that's the big political argument - is how much money the Government are willing to put into something such as policing when they've got other things to think about like the health service, like education. It's a big juggling act. Like everything else in life, you usually get what you pay for.


Newshost:

Stephen, UK: The figures proving the success of zero tolerance in the United States may be relative to a certain extent. How much of the success can be attributed to the fact that people in America have a much more open right to protect themselves than people here in the United Kingdom?


Rick Naylor

We have rights in this country - they're enshrined in law that you're allowed to defend yourself. Perhaps we're not as robust as perhaps they are in America but people do look after themselves and do fight back against back against muggers and against people that enter their homes. Sometimes that has tragic consequences - if you remember the Tony Martin case. There are safeguards there - people can look after themselves and their own property and the courts do take that into account. So I don't think there's too much to worry about there.


Newshost:

Sean Arrowsmith, London, UK: Would arming our police help to deter crime?


Rick Naylor

Definitely not - definitely not. We pride ourselves in the British police service of being one of the few police services in the world that carry out our mainstream duties unarmed. If we were armed, I think we would lose a lot of public confidence.


Newshost:

John Dyson, UK: Having been the victim of aggressive burglary in my home, I'd like to ask if you think the system is currently in favour of the criminal and does sentencing match the crime?


Rick Naylor

That's a very, very sensitive point. I too was a victim of crime not so long ago and I feel that the system - the scales of justice if you like - is weighted in favour of the defendant and not of the victim. Sometimes sentences do not fit the crime. One of the major problems we have, in this country is actually getting justice swift enough. We have people let out on bail, time after time to re-offend and that is something that the whole Criminal Justice system has got to address as a matter of urgency.


Newshost:

Chris, UK: How can the police square the circle between the massive rise in black-on-black crime in London and zero tolerance without being accused of racism?


Rick Naylor

Very, very sensitive. It would obviously have to be a political decision. The police will act when they see these crimes, when they get information that can lead to an arrest it does happen. But we have to acknowledge the fact that a lot of these street robberies that are going on at the moment are black-on-black and that does have extra sensitivities. The police service itself, I believe, is not a racist institution. We try to dispense justice with fairness and integrity and we will continue to do that - on that bedrock we get the consent of the public. But it is difficult in these ethnic minority areas in our communities where they have different cultures and different expectations of the police. So we need to bear that in mind as well. But law-breaking and mugging on the street cannot be condoned whatever the colour of anybody's skin.


Newshost:

Paul Horgan, UK: Would it be possible to apply zero tolerance and at the same time comply with the recommendations of the MacPherson report, the implementation of which appeared to have resulted in an unprecedented and vicious crime wave in London?


Rick Naylor

There seems to have been an effect after the McPherson report on stop and search I think that's more generally accepted that the numbers of stop and search in London, dropped dramatically after the McPherson report which may have had another effect on street robberies. We need to look at that in detail. We need to take action and I'm sure the Metropolitan Police are doing that. There are some very good operations going on in the Metropolitan Police in places like Hackney at the moment which are addressing this very problem and the problem of street crime.


Newshost:

Sarah, Wales: Is there not a limit on how many offenders the prisons can take? Aren't government programmes for repeat offenders better than locking them up and throwing away the key?

Steve Murtagh, England: How can we have a zero tolerance policy when the courts cannot even deal with the number of criminals that are currently brought before them?


Rick Naylor

There's some very good points there. Obviously, if you do have a zero tolerance policy it's going to have an effect of the on the rest of the criminal justice service and also obviously on the prisons if more people get put into prison. One interesting side I'd like to say is that if the police were doing a bad job, the prisons would be empty - that's probably a little bit trite. But your questioners there raise some very, very fundamental points. It isn't just enough to say that the police should operate zero tolerance. We need to look out all the ramifications of that sort of policy and that sort of policy will in fact mean more work for the courts and more work for prisons and f you're not in that position to deal with the results of zero tolerance what's going to happen? The people that we arrest are going to be back on the street again.


Newshost:

Martin, UK: I am a serving police officer with nearly 20 years service on the street. I would like to ask why uniform beat officers have to spend up to 50% of their time dealing with paperwork, quite often duplicated, which in turn leaves less officers on the street.


Rick Naylor

That's an excellent point and I share Martin's frustration. There is a taskforce sitting at the moment under the former chief HMI - David O'Dowd - who is looking at ways of cutting down on this bureaucracy. It is a fact that police officers spend far too much time in police stations filling out forms or tapping into computers when we should have a joined up information technology system that delivers the product and that we only key in information once. That is the goal - it is easier to say than do because it takes a lot of work to integrate all the various systems up and down the country. But that is where there is work to work towards and I think if we achieve that we will have a remarkable effect on the amount of police officers available to patrol outside and also, bear in mind, we will increase their job satisfaction because the officers themselves don't like sitting down doing all this paperwork - they'd rather be out there serving the community.

See also:

13 Feb 02 | England
29 Sep 98 | UK
29 Sep 98 | Talking Point
23 Dec 01 | Americas
26 Sep 01 | Americas
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