Page last updated at 01:22 GMT, Thursday, 18 September 2008 02:22 UK

Red tape cut in knife crime drive

knife
Ministers believe hundreds of police hours will be saved.

Police in knife crime hot-spots are to get powers that ministers say will reduce red tape when stopping people for informal questioning on the street.

Officers in 10 areas, including London, Manchester and Merseyside, will no longer have to fill out lengthy forms.

A second scheme to reduce forms needed to record actual crimes is also being introduced, says the Home Office.

Special forms for "stop and account" were introduced to combat racism, but police say they are bureaucratic.

Jacqui Smith on the new measures

The other police force areas covered by the initiative are Essex, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, West Midlands, Nottinghamshire, South Wales and Thames Valley.

The measures have been widely trailed as part of the Home Office's strategy to modernise the police.

Macpherson report

Ministers say cutting red tape will save officers hundreds of thousands of hours a year.

The most controversial form for many officers has been the paperwork relating to stopping someone and asking them to account for their behaviour.

The forms were introduced to help constabularies internally monitor if they were stopping too many minorities, a key recommendation of the Macpherson report into Stephen Lawrence's murder.

The second measure, fewer forms used to record crimes, comes after positive signs in four pilot areas.

Staffordshire Police say they have cut from 15 minutes to two the time needed to record a crime, freeing up the equivalent of 19 officers.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the new stop-and-account measures would be introduced to the 10 "Tackling Knives Action Programme" areas from the end of October.

Officers will radio in the subject's ethnicity and hand over a card explaining how they should complain if they feel unfairly treated. The new measures will be rolled out nationally from next year.

Ms Smith said: "Giving police the means to dramatically reduce form-filling bureaucracy in these 10 priority areas will free up valuable officer time to further clamp down on knife crime.

"The recent Policing Green Paper set out radical plans to cut red tape to allow police to focus on the most serious crime and on local issues."

Search arches

Chief Constable Peter Fahy of Greater Manchester Police said: "The biggest frustration of frontline officers at the moment is lack of discretion, disproportionate bureaucracy and the target culture.

"These changes, along with others proposed in the recent Green Paper, will in time enable officers to spend more time on the street."

But shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said: "This is a straight lift from Conservative proposals announced six months ago.

"After 11 years of tying up the police in red tape, this government is the problem not the solution."

Police in the knife crime hot-spots have been given portable search arches and have increased street stops to identify people carrying blades.

In London, 77,000 searches since May have led to 3,300 arrests and the seizure of 2,200 knives.




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