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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 September, 2003, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
Tories pledge huge police rise
Oliver Letwin
Oliver Letwin - pledges 40,000 more police officers
The Conservatives say they will take centralised control of policing away from Whitehall and hand it back to local areas.

Speaking to the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales in Newport on Wednesday, Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin also pledged to recruit an extra 40,000 beat officers and tackle neighbourhood crime caused by drug addicts.

Mr Letwin said the next Conservative government would reverse what he called the Blair administration's "obsessive, centralising tendencies".

"You can't steer a ship from the shore and you can't police a neighbourhood from Whitehall," he added.

"The Home Office has got to let go because sooner or later the obsessive centralising tendencies of the current regime will end in disaster."

A Conservative administration, he added, would back up its decentralising initiative by recruiting an additional 40,000 police to place a greater emphasis on old fashioned "neighbourhood policing."

This would be an increase of almost a third on current police numbers.

Heroin and crack cocaine addicts are responsible for one-third of all crimes in this country, and that can only get worse as the army of addicts swells by 10,000 per year.
Oliver Letwin
He told the conference at the Celtic Manor Hotel: "Deep problems require deep solutions, the deepest of which would be the restoration of neighbourhood policing to its rightful place in today's police service."

Mr Letwin said that there was a place for "high-level policing" using such tools as DNA testing, electronic surveillance and computerised databases.

But concentration on this sector had meant that communities had suffered from the withdrawal of resources including police on the beat.

A Conservative government would find the financial resources to reverse this trend and put the power back into local control of policing as well as putting an extra officers back on the beat.

In a third major initiative, Mr Letwin said he was planning a 10-fold increase in drug rehabilitation capacity to tackle the main cause of neighbourhood crime.

He said: "Heroin and crack cocaine addicts are responsible for one-third of all crimes in this country, and that can only get worse as the army of addicts swells by 10,000 per year."

Police officers
Conservatives want more police back on the neighbourhood beat
He promised to up the rehabilitation places from the current 2,000 places to 20,000 - placements would be by compulsion in order to break the link between addiction and crime.

A spokeswoman for the Police Federation of England and Wales said they would not comment on a "numbers game" in terms off police recruitment.

She added that the organisation - which represents 130,000 officers from the rank of constable to chief inspector - had repeatedly called for a Royal Commission on Policing to look at all aspects of the job.

"This should consult not only police officers, but members of the public, councillors and all those working within the criminal justice system," she added.

Beat officers go on patrol
14 Jul 03  |  North West Wales
The view from the beat
13 Mar 02  |  Politics

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