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Stephen Greenhalgh: The Conservatives need a stronger crime-fighting agenda for the capital

Stephen Greenhalgh was the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime in London, and has also served as Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council.

After yet another bloody weekend in the capital, Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced another in his long line of timid pilot projects.  This one to tag, using the Global Positioning System, only 100 habitual knife-crime criminals in just four London boroughs when they leave prison in order to reduce their re-offending. In The Times, Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has called for collective action to prevent violent crime from “scarring our society, terrorising our communities, and, most devastatingly, destroying the lives of our next generation.”

The Home Secretary has made a commitment to do everything in his power to give those on the front line of the fight, the tools they need to end the bloodshed. He has backed this up with the announcement of the knife crime prevention orders in response to the police wanting more powers to help them divert young people away from the dangers of knife crime.

So why is the London Mayor not using GPS tagging in combination with these new civil orders? Perhaps the Home Secretary can put this to the Mayor, in the cross-party serious violence taskforce that he is convening today. This is yet another example of the Mayor focusing on PR rather than the measures that will do something to stem the bloodshed on London’s streets. GPS tagging has been around for years and should be rolled out far more widely – not just to reduce re-offending but also with preventative measures such as these new knife crime prevention orders, gang injunctions, and criminal behaviour orders. With the murder rate and knife crime at a 10 year high, Londoners deserve a Mayor who prioritises the prevention of knife crime.

However, we also need more police officers in our capital city. This Home Secretary has risen to the challenge and is providing the biggest increase in police budgets since 2010. Police and Crime Commissioners all over the country are planning to recruit thousands more officers. However, the Mayor of London has let police officers fall to below 30,000 from at or around 32,000 when Mayor Johnson left office in 2016.  This is despite receiving a flat cash settlement from the Home Office. The Mayor needs to have a budget plan to increase officer numbers dramatically and this will not emerge with more pointless PR. Under Mayor Johnson we had a plan to release under-utilised police buildings, reduce overhead, and reform the policing model to keep police officer numbers high in spite of having £100 million less to spend each year.

Finally, if we are going to stem this mindless violence, our candidate for Mayor, Shaun Bailey, should pledge to bring in the technology developed by British scientists that allows frontline officers to carry scanners which enable them to detect knives and guns beneath clothing. These portable scanners can differentiate knives from everyday items such as keys. A widespread roll-out of this technology will give the police another tool that will enable the Met to ramp up intelligence-led and targeted stop and search so that we can get the knives off the streets of our capital city.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Houston’s Police Chief could use a refresher course on gun crimes

Westlake Legal Group ChicagoPD Houston’s Police Chief could use a refresher course on gun crimes The Blog Texas prayers police shootings police Houston gun control

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has gained even more fans in the liberal media. Acevedo’s department experienced a nightmare recently when four of his officers were shot on the same day while executing a raid on a drug dealer’s house. The department, the community and the state government all came together in sympathy and support for the brutal attacks, with Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton sending their expressions of support and offering thoughts and prayers for the affected families. (As is the usual practice among civil people.)

This inspired Acevedo to fire back at them, deriding the “thoughts and prayers” comments and issuing calls for new gun control measures. Any time you have a police officer saying something like that, they immediately receive national attention from liberals in the media. This was no exception, and the Washington Post was soon singing his praises.

“WE DON’T elect people to pray for us. We elect people to lead us.” The day after four of his officers were shot while on duty, that is what Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo had to say to politicians who offer up “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of tragic shootings. His scolding of elected officials who do absolutely nothing about the public-health epidemic of gun violence was well earned. It ought to shame Congress into finally enacting some sensible gun safety policies…

“I appreciate your prayers . . . but the question is, what are policymakers willing to do, besides prayers, to address a public-health epidemic?” said Mr. Acevedo.

It’s not the first time the chief, who leads a police department in the fourth-largest city in the United States, has spoken out about the need for gun reform. After 10 people were killed in a school shooting last year in nearby Santa Fe, Tex., he posted a statement on Facebook that said he had “hit rock bottom” with gun rights arguments. His frustration about government inaction was palatable. One of the officers who was shot Monday as he tried to rescue injured colleagues had been shot twice before. But, as Mr. Acevedo painfully pointed out, gun violence doesn’t impact law enforcement only.

Here’s an extra bit of irony for you. Acevedo took to Twitter on the day of the incident and asked people to pray for the officers.

The spat over thoughts and prayers isn’t the real issue here. What I’m sure Acevedo knows but isn’t mentioning is the fact that it’s highly unlikely that the guns the two drug dealers who shot the cops were using were purchased legally. When we see high-profile shootings being investigated and the source of the weapons is known, that information is generally released. I’ve checked multiple press reports of this incident, with statements from Acevedo and others in Houston and there’s no mention of where those two men obtained their handguns.

But they were definitely heroin dealers, a fact provided by Houston’s own police who sent an informant there to make a purchase. What are the odds that these two guys in a house where they’re dealing drugs and packing heat were able to pass a background check? As in the lion’s share of cases, these criminals probably bought them on the black market or stole them. And if they were able to pass a background check somehow, then they still would have had the guns anyway.

And if that’s the case, calling for new restrictions on “assault rifles” and extended magazines or conducting more background checks wouldn’t have prevented those officers from being shot. Chief Acevedo should know better and stop playing to the gun control crowd using his own wounded officers as promotional material.

The post Houston’s Police Chief could use a refresher course on gun crimes appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group ChicagoPD-300x159 Houston’s Police Chief could use a refresher course on gun crimes The Blog Texas prayers police shootings police Houston gun control   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Holly Whitbread: Promoting parental responsibility is the key to address anti-social behaviour

Holly Whitbread is an Epping Forest District councillor and currently works as a Parliamentary Researcher. 

Up and down the country, unruly teens plague our streets. They are often fueled by alcohol and in some circumstances illegal substances. Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) is a nuisance, which disturbs the tranquillity of neighbourhoods. Stoking fear into innocent residents and exposing cracks in public civility. There has been a particularly noticeable rise in suburban communities.

This conduct is unacceptable and the tide of such incidence needs to end. Unfortunately, addressing ASB is a wobbly tightrope in terms of its legality. Due to its wide-ranging definition, many examples of anti-social behaviour is not in itself illegal. In can be difficult to pin down the culprits and their accomplices. The offenders of ASB can be subject to punishments which attempt to limit movement and association. This includes a civil injunction, a community protection notice or criminal behaviour order. Although, these responses are often deemed to be not wholly effective.

There is certainly a place for action by the police, local organisations, agencies and local authorities. They have a responsibility to address ASB and to help people who are suffering from it. For example, beyond the action of local authorities and police, there are merits in arguments in relation to education, the re-introduction of national service, investment in youth services and activities. However, whilst they can help ease the issue, and it is vital that they do take action, such bodies cannot solve it alone.

In fact, where I serve as a district councillor in Epping Forest, we have been proactive and adopted an innovative approach to tackling ASB. The council has funded three Essex Police officers which are tasked by the authority. In addition, we fund park-guard officers, their role is to provide high visibility targeted engagement. One of their core functions of this additional resource is to address ASB. Their work is targeted and focused. They work alongside ASB officers from the council building which plays host to a community safety hub, enabling efficient and effective multi-agency working.

This initiative has seen positive results in addressing ASB. Such as, pre-planned operations neutralised situations throughout the district on Halloween. In addition, increased visibility is important in terms of reducing the fear of crime.

Beyond practical action, there is also an important role for public engagement. In my locality, I have established an Anti-Social Behaviour and Youth Strategy working group, through the town council. This is an apolitical group which works cross-community with stakeholders including the police, local authorities, schools, businesses and youth organisations. Its primary function is one of communication, ensuring that problems are exposed and reporting back on action which has been taken by the relevant authorities. Furthermore, consideration is being given to various projects for youth engagement.

Whilst the multi-faceted approach to tackling ASB, demonstrated in my district is positive. There is continued and increasing pressure to exert more cost and resource to address ASB, however, it seems clear to me that the greatest issue cannot be solved through financial investment.

We can continue pontificate and preach about how to address ASB, although, in this modern day and age to often do we look for someone else to provide an answer. Interestingly, those I have spoken to in the teaching profession have commented that there is a frustration that they are often blamed for incidents which occur outside of the school gates, outside of school hours.

It is clear that more focus must be placed on parental responsibility. Indeed, this is a duty enshrined in law, in s 3(1) Children Act 1989, where it sets out the definition for parental responsibility as, “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.” Unfortunately, too many parents need a reminder of their legislative as well as their moral duty.

At the risk of sounding nostalgic, the fear of consequences for misbehaviour has been lost for many. The liberal parents of ‘Generation Z’ have a duty to set some boundaries and discipline. Rules need to be set out and if rules are broken there must be consequences. It is vital parents of are more aware of where their children are and what they are doing.

A crucial ingredient is missing in some of today’s generation, a value which hasn’t been instilled or cultivated in many: respect! It is clear that there has been a gradual degeneration of the esteem which young people hold supposedly authority figures and the value they place on the community which they live. Addressing this problem is an intergenerational challenge, at the heart of which is the need to strengthen family units and societal values.

Young people need to feel as though they have a stake in society, a sense of active citizenship. They need to identify their position in its hierarchy and there needs to be a re-asserting of respect for authority figures. The re-establishment of more community-centric policing may be one way of helping to address this. However, these values must begin at home and they must be cultivated to protect our environment.

Although, it is clear that turning the tide will not be easy. The role of responsible parenting has never been more important. If a police officer knocks at your door to complain about your child, accountability must be taken and immediate action is required to turn the situation around. It should go without saying that parents need to address the bad behaviour of their children and the onus should be placed on them to stop it.

Whilst, the majority of parents and guardians fulfil their responsibilities, those who fail to set out limitations and sufficient chastisement are facilitating the swell of anti-social behaviour which is disturbing the life of their fellow residents. As a nation and in individual communities we must evaluate expectations and reassert bread and butter values. This is far easier to assert that change. It requires wholesale societal change. The war on ASB is won through the battle of hearts and minds.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Gareth Bacon: Khan pushed up Council Tax – but he fails to give priority to fighting crime

Gareth Bacon is the Leader of the Conservative Group on the London Assembly.

Sadiq Khan is fast approaching the last year of his term in office. What has he achieved so far? He is consistently behind his own affordable housing targets. He has driven TfL into financial crisis. Violent crime continues to be on our front pages on a daily basis. Crossrail will open at least 18 months late and nearly £2 billion over budget. Meanwhile, he has increased the number of bureaucrats at City Hall by a staggering 37 per cent and spent a large amount of time and resources attempting to overturn Brexit.

London’s Mayor is overseeing an administration typified by virtue signalling, financial incompetence, and wasteful spending. For example, it is laughable that when London faces such significant challenges in crime, housing, and transport a Mayor could choose – as Sadiq Khan did – to spend over £400,000 on a beach party and £10 million for police officers to take a test designed to assign their personality a colour. To give another example, he has decided to freeze TfL fares for his term in office – a choice that will cost TfL £640 million, and a policy that TfL has identified in their latest business plan as impossible to continue with if he is re-elected.

Sadiq Khan presented his draft budget for the next financial year to the London Assembly last week, and we are concerned that some of his proposed spending decisions do not stack up with the real priorities of Londoners.

Crime is a top issue for Londoners and Khan should be taking every possible action as Mayor of London to tackle this epidemic. Violent crime in London has been on the rise for some time now: the murder rate has increased by 23.3 percent over the past two years and knife crime has increased by 32.1 percent over the past three years.

The Mayor has endlessly claimed that violent crime is a direct result of government cuts to police budgets and that he has done everything in his power to keep police numbers as high as possible.

But this simply isn’t true.

The reality is that the Mayor has choices available to him, but has made the wrong ones. Characteristically, in his draft budget, Khan has yet again prioritised PR over police officers and show over substance.

In response to Sadiq Khan’s draft budget, the GLA Conservatives submitted a balanced and fully costed amendment which cuts waste and inefficiency at City Hall, whilst reducing some of his more bloated budgets back down to the levels they were at when he first entered office. With our plan, Khan could fund 1,378 extra police officers funded by savings of nearly £83 million in other areas. On top of this, our proposal would provide enough extra money to freeze the non-policing tax precept, (which Khan intends to increase by 2.99 per cent) – a real terms tax cut for millions of Londoners.

Amongst other proposals, we have suggested that the Mayor could reduce his vastly increased staffing budget, withdraw the £13 million annual contribution that he gives to London and Partners (the Mayor’s PR company), and reduce the amount that TfL pays for employees to work on union duties, which has increased from £4.9 million to £10.8 million over the course of his mayoralty.

There is a cross-party consensus in the Assembly that the Metropolitan Police needs more resources and we do not disagree. However, in spite of this, the Labour, Green, and Lib Dem Assembly Members collectively dismissed our amendment and voted it down. We are disappointed that opposition parties decided to oppose extra police officers for London, but we hope that the Mayor reconsiders and includes our proposals before he finalises his budget at the end of February.

Sadiq Khan’s term of office has so far been characterised by a great deal of boasting but very little in the way of real achievement. It is dismal record from a man who last week publicly described himself as “a brilliant Mayor.” In reality, this is a Mayor who has taken his eye off the ball. This is a Mayor who isn’t listening to Londoners about their priorities. This is a Mayor who is more interested in pontificating about Brexit – an issue over which he has no control – than concentrating on the day job.

It is time he started focusing on what Londoners expect their Mayor to be doing. He can start by accepting our amendment and putting another 1,400 bobbies on the beat.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Andy Street: Our 12-point plan to revitalise 
the High Street

Andy Street is Mayor of the West Midlands, and is a former Managing Director of John Lewis.

Visit almost any community in the UK and at its very heart you will find a traditional town centre or High Street. They are usually home to a tick-list of the civic buildings and services that support community life: a town hall, the council house, police station, courts, libraries. Public transport networks converge on them, carrying people like nutrients to a vital organ. Historic landmarks – statues, memorials, castles and churches – cement their deeply symbolic place in the local psyche.

It’s no wonder that residents see them as representing the health and prospects of a community. Yet they are clearly facing immense challenges, with each week seeming to bring more disheartening news from retailers. As the former Managing Director of John Lewis, I fully understand the challenges facing the sector. I also know it’s hard for communities to believe in a new economic future when their High Street is partially boarded up.

In the West Midlands, even though the economy is growing quickly, people walk through their town centre and see tired shops, vacant units and run-down public spaces. There is a big difference between the economic statistics and people’s everyday experience.

However, it is a challenge that we are rising to – with our 12-point West Midlands blueprint for successful town centres in Britain. The councils that make up the region – Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Walsall, Dudley, Solihull and Sandwell – have come together to announce a programme of trailblazer pilots to put this pioneering plan into action.

Five local centres – Bilston, St Thomas Quarter in Dudley, Bordesley Green in Birmingham, St Matthews Quarter in Walsall and West Bromwich – will take part in a scheme which will benefit other areas, too.

High Streets and town centres across the country have struggled in the last few years, with the rise of online shopping and out-of-town retail destinations. The collapse of BHS, Poundworld and Maplin; pressure on House of Fraser and Debenhams; and branch closures from M&S and the big banks demonstrate how serious this challenge is.

So here it is, our 12-point plan to revitalise the High Street – with some examples of how it is being applied across the West Midlands:

Experience-led Retail: Traditional retailers recognise that they need to evolve to differentiate themselves from online, focusing more on the personal touch and the face-to-face experience you can’t get from a screen. Think specialist retailers, mixed-use spaces, local shops and some new concepts we don’t even know about yet.

Beyond Retail: There are lots of reasons people come to a place: leisure, work, living and accessing public services. A thriving modern town centre needs to offer far more than shopping. Successful places need people to want to come and spend time there. In Walsall, for instance, Walsall Waterfront has brought contemporary culture to bear on the area, with the Walsall New Art Gallery.

Urban Living: Providing homes within walking distance of workplaces gives people more cash and free time to spend it. This could mean repurposing surplus business premises to provide quality urban housing. Apply the lesson of our major cities, where urban living has tripled since 2000, to our town centres and High Streets.

Co-Working in the Town Centre: Our start-up hot beds are too often focussed on bespoke office space in higher rent areas – why not drive this dynamo into every town centre? In Moseley, Birmingham, The Exchange hosts buzzing creative start-ups.

Public Services for All: We need to think radically about how people access public services. As the focal point of public transport, town centres should be the natural place for health and services, skills training and careers advice. In Dorridge, Solihull, Sainsburys built a doctor’s surgery and small retail units alongside their main store. In Sutton Coldfield, the main library now also hosts a popular child-centric café.

Green and Clean: Town centres must be places that people enjoy being. That means safe dedicated cycle and walking routes, green space galore, and elegant street design and street furniture. The approach to Coventry city centre from the railway station past Friargate, is clean, green, landscaped and even has outdoor gym equipment, such as an exercise bike for people to charge their phones

Safe and Secure: People need to feel safe for them to spend time and money in town centres. Good lighting, CCTV, proactive policing and even simple things like secure bike racks are an absolute must. In central Birmingham, the Colmore Business District has appointed wardens to give helpful and reassuring support to businesses and visitors.

Easy to Get To: Whether it’s bus, train, metro, cycling, or walking, town centres must be easy to get into and out of. And public transport beats driving wherever possible. Government must invest in the transport links needed to create thriving high footfall town centres. The extension of the West Midlands Metro from Wednesbury to Dudley and Brierley Hill will bring people into those town centres quickly and easily.

Accelerate Technology Changes: Technology is disrupting retail, transport and all other industries. We can’t turn the clock back, we need to accelerate the future of the town centre. We must adapt and change, like providing pick up options for online deliveries, or perhaps drop-off points for autonomous vehicles.

Strong Local Leadership: Town centres need co-ordination to make sure they provide a good experience for residents and customers. Whether it is local councils masterplanning, BIDs co-ordinating, a single landlord or landlords working together, the best town centres are the most joined up. In Birmingham, the Bullring and Grand Central malls actively ‘curate’ the shopping experience through its choice of tenants.

A Fair Tax System: Traditional and online retailers should be treated equivalently and we should review business rates to even the playing field for town centre shops.  It is widely reported that Amazon’s UK Corporation Tax bill last year was a meagre £4.6 million. This figure was lower than in the previous year. Under the current rules, as their market share grows, they are paying less. In his most recent Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced measures, including plans to cut business rates by a third for almost half a million small High Street shops. He also unveiled a ‘digital services tax’ on online operators, which must be applauded – but we must constantly review taxation policy to make sure it keeps pace with technological change and shopping habits.

Retain Local Character: Each town centre has a character of its own that makes the locals love it. Whether it is a bustling High Street serving the local Asian community or a quaint old market town, we celebrate a town centre’s unique selling point. In Birmingham, the annual Soho Road Diwali celebrations are run by the local Business Improvement District, one of the many ways it serves the community.

We need to take a dynamic new approach to our High Streets with ambitious thinking. The future is not just retail. Our town centres need housing, workplaces and public services to make them thrive.
In the coming months, we will call on experts from the retail sector, finance, housing, landlords and local authorities from across the UK to support my initiative, too.

Every High Street and town centre in the UK has its own unique characteristics, and there is no ‘one-size’ solution to the problems they are facing. In the same way, the five local centres we have selected as ‘pilots’ have different challenges. By addressing them we can learn lessons to apply across the wider conurbation.

Town centres are deeply symbolic. They matter a great deal to people. This plan can help turn them into thriving and vibrant places again.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Four police officers shot in Houston while serving a search warrant

Westlake Legal Group Houston-shooting-2 Four police officers shot in Houston while serving a search warrant The Blog Texas police Houston

It’s hard to see headlines like this and not think about what happened in Dallas in 2016. In this case, it seems this was two individuals selling black tar heroin.

The initial report was that five Houston police officers had been shot but police are now saying four were shot and one was injured in the scramble. The officers were serving a warrant when they were attacked. There are two suspects and both were struck and killed by return gunfire from the police.

There’s a briefing taking place now. The Chief of Police says there were about a dozen officers at the scene serving a search warrant. As soon as they breached the door they came under fire from inside the house. Five officers were injured, four were struck by gunfire and two are currently undergoing surgery. The other two officers who were shot are said to be “ambulatory” but are remaining in the hospital for observation.

The search warrant was prompted by emails from local residents who complained the house was the site of drug deals. Police investigated and had enough evidence to get a search warrant for the house. That’s what the officers were doing when they were attacked.

One of the officers who was shot was 54-years-old and the chief says he has been shot in the line of duty previously. He praised the “heart” of his police officers. Here’s a portion of the news briefing:

The post Four police officers shot in Houston while serving a search warrant appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group Houston-shooting-2-300x159 Four police officers shot in Houston while serving a search warrant The Blog Texas police Houston   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Simon Marcus: Marxist ideology. Lax courts – and May’s legacy. All have helped to create the new era of gang crime.

Simon Marcus is co-founder of the Boxing Academy, is a former adviser to the Coalition Government and contested Hampstead and Kilburn at the 2015 election.

The solutions to gang crime are straightforward and proven to work. The problem is that our political establishment, now captured by left-wing ideology, doesn’t want to hear about them. So while politicians remain in denial, the death toll grows.

Sadiq Khan helps to illustrate the problem. In a recent attempt to tackle gang crime he embraced the strategy of Glasgow’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), which cut knife crime through a collaborative approach with police, schools, hospitals and other public services.

All well and good. But Khan missed out the other half. Knife crime in Galsgow fell to 40 year lows because Stop and Search reached levels of one in five men, police numbers stayed at all time highs, and arrest levels were higher than in England, as were sentences for repeat offenders. It was this, combined with the VRU, that delivered results.

But that’s out of the question in London. Last year, when Khan suggested a small increase in ‘targeted’ stop and search, he was accused of playing ‘political football’ by David Lammy and rebuked by race campaigners. So, instead, the demanded that the police overhaul their gang crime database or ‘Matrix,’ because 80 per cent of those on it were black, and some were as young as 12.

He shouldn’t have.  Ninety-six per cent of those on the ‘Matrix’ had been sanctioned for a criminal offence – 79 per cent for ‘violence, weapons or robbery.’ Tragically, little has changed since 2003, when Diane Abbott bravely noted that 80 per cent of gun crime in London was black on black. Indeed, a recent freedom of information request showed half of all murder suspects and victims in London are still black, even though the black population of London is only 13 per cent.

Yet many, like Lammy, say that Stop and Search is “dispropportionate” and entertains a “racist fantasy”. He plays a high standard of ‘political football’ too, blaming gang violence on Eastern European mafias and “Tory cuts”. He should know better. Following the riots of 2011, which began on his patch, Stop and Search went through the roof; there were more arrests; longer sentences for repeat offenders, and London saw big falls in crime. These falls were reversed when many of those offenders were let out a year or two later.

Forgetting the lessons of the past is no accident in this case. It arises from a mindset shaped by the leftist ideology that has marched through our institutions. At its root is the Marxist principle that crime is caused by inequality and injustice inherent in the capitalist system. The Equality Trust for example, believes that our violent crime wave is rooted in  ‘inequality, deprivation and massive status anxiety,’ and tells us that ‘we need to admit that every…police officer…prison officer and trauma surgeon with a specialism in treating knife or gunshot wounds is, at root, a measure of our failure as a society.’

University departments produce countless research papers supporting this view, the Guardian newspaper repeats it almost every day and even some police commanders are keen to agree.

This is dangerous, because it apportions moral status based on relative power and social position. The ‘oppressed’ can do no wrong and the ‘oppressor’ can do no right. It also means that criminals have a built-in excuse: to punish them is to blame the victim, and the police are seen as the problem and more public spending the solution.

A simple observation bursts this ideological bubble – namely, that the vast majority of those in poverty commit no crimes at all. In fact, many work very hard to build strong and happy communities and they are not worried about their status.  The link between poverty and crime becomes even less clear when figures show that crime went down during the last recession and that, since then, inequality has fallen, with unemployment at historical lows. Indeed, our current gang crime epidemic has become entrenched during one of the biggest economic booms in history.

The charity sector also enjoyed the good times but, despite a record income of £75 billion last year, it has failed to find the solutions to gang crime. Instead, too many within it still prefer the virtue-signalling explanations of blame, victimhood and race politics.

The Conservative Party is also moving that way, judging by the reaction to Sajid Javid’s recent knife crime announcements. He wanted those who breached their Knife Prevention Orders to face jail. Common sense, you might think. But David Gauke belittled the suggestion: a “Whitehall source” claimed that Javid was “grandstanding on knife crime” and the Howard League for Penal Reform said that he was “playing politics”.

Strangely, Javid’s critics neither acknowledged that knife crime was out of control nor that strong action was required. But it was the tone of derision and refusal to engage that gave the game away. Ad hominem attacks are designed to silence debate and a sure sign of ideological groupthink, which is why almost no one in the Conservative Party defended Javid.

Why would they? When Theresa May was Home Secretary, she managed to cut police numbers, Stop and Search, arrest levels, prison sentences, and violence reduction projects all at the same time. It was a win-win for all the wrong reasons. May gained favour with the Treasury, looked tough on police corruption and signalled her anti-racist credentials. Labour were happy for the police to be clobbered – until crime went through the roof and it became a convenient ‘political football’.

The law courts do their bit, too, and last year 19,634 violent offenders with ten or more previous convictions or cautions avoided jail.  Most of these will re-offend and damage countless lives, but if we are a “failure as a society’”, perhaps we deserve it? We don’t – and nor do the black boys stabbed to death in London, because left-wing ideology has stopped the police from doing their job.

But this is where we are.  While white boys are being saved in Glasgow, a new era of gang crime has become rationalised in London and it will continue until our leaders come to their senses. Yes, we need collaborative approaches, and Stop and Search needs to be accountable. But if you stop the police from doing their job, cut numbers, let violent repeat offenders go free and hide behind dodgy research then don’t ask why crime goes through the roof and the very people you claim to care about are the ones dying.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Craig Hoy: Stop demanding the law-abiding simply learn to live with anti-social behaviour

Craig Hoy is a former Downing Street Lobby correspondent and a member of the Scottish Conservative Party.

After anything but a Merry Christmas, the last thing our struggling high streets need is to be blighted by anti-social behaviour. But all too often our villages, towns and cities are marred by low-level violence and intimidation, which reveal a stubborn stain on the character of modern Scotland.

Earlier this year, The Scottish Sun reported on ‘ASBO Avenue‘, where five individuals presided over a “reign of terror” on a small cul-de-sac. The number of dangerous dog notices issued across Scotland is up by 270 per cent in six years. Crime rose by 1.7 per cent in Scotland last year, with offences involving a weapon up by 3.4 per cent and robberies surging by 8.4 per cent.

In my home town of Haddington in East Lothian – where I now spend much of my time, following a decade running a business in the sharply different environs of Asia – authorities recently agreed a so-called ‘Problem Solving Partnership’ to tackle a spate of extreme anti-social behaviour. The actions of a small number of visible individuals alarmed local residents and angered weary local businesses. A series of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) followed, including one which bans a 38-year-old woman using “aggressive, abusive or intimidating language or behaviour” preventing her entering the street “in a group of more than two people”.

At the heart of this problem lies the vexing balancing act between personal rights and responsibilities. If you speak in private to those responsible for enforcing ASBOs, or pursuing tenant evictions, they admit that the pendulum has swung much too far in the wrong direction.

Those seeking to prosecute this behaviour say they are doing so with one hand tied behind their back. Cash-strapped local authorities and over-stretched police often lack the capacity to respond effectively – or react at all. The legal processes can be drawn-out and complex – and biased in favour of the offender.

While it’s un-PC to advocate hard-line early intervention, there’s mounting evidence that we’re still too reluctant to respond decisively to damaging and dangerous behaviour. Or, in the East Lothian case, the response is wrong: to house anti-social residents in the same locality, to make it easier for relevant agencies to monitor their behaviour – or, worse still, alongside good neighbours in the vain hope that it will make them change their ways.

The structural language of the mechanisms deployed hints at this sense of misguided logic. Take ‘Acceptable Behaviour Contracts’. These voluntary written agreements between councils, landlords and tenants have no legal status.

Think about it for a moment. It has come to something when adults have to explicitly agree in writing “not to threaten or abuse residents or passers-by” or, worse still, “not to throw missiles” at them. People ought to know that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable and act accordingly, without having to sign a piece of paper.

Tony Blair’s much-vaunted “respect agenda” has been lost by governments of all political persuasions over recent decades and more.

What strikes me most, and should worry us all, is that many now believe this is a problem we simply have to learn to live with. They view it as a battle too complex – or too costly – to tackle through the penal system or via social or welfare policy. It is, say some on the Left, an undesirable but inevitable outcome of unacceptable levels of poverty and deprivation. I doubt that this is completely true but no political party is without blame.
 Two years ago, one of the starkest problems which struck me on my return to Scotland after a decade in Asia was the level of “everyday” anti-social behaviour. That could be kids on bikes “buzzing” an elderly pedestrian, or hooded youths using unleashed dogs to passively threaten those who walk by.

I accept comparing Scotland to countries such as Singapore is probably a fruitless exercise. Crude comparisons fail to take into account different cultural norms, legal and penal systems, the role of the family and the impact of different levels of wealth and the welfare system on an individual’s behaviour.

But it’s worth trying to assess precisely why significant levels of anti-social behaviour have been “priced in” to the everyday currency of life in Scotland today when other countries still adopt zero tolerance. If the respect agenda works elsewhere, then we shouldn’t give up on it here.

Scotland is prepared to think out of the box. Moves towards tackling knife crime through a “public health” approach have been successful in Glasgow. But it is worth stressing that finding “reachable and teachable moments” to educate offenders were deployed alongside deterrent based measures, including, for a period, increased stop and search and tougher sentences.

Finding a lasting solution to anti-social behaviour and violence might mean having difficult conversations about relying less on community sentencing, increasing fines and using custodial sentences more.

Community Justice Scotland (CJS) says the criminal justice system has to be “swift and visible”, but “balanced and fair” – allowing offenders to “build better lives” for themselves and their families. But we must be very careful we don’t create a dangerous imbalance in the same way we have over rights and responsibilities.

The Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill, currently before the Holyrood Parliament, suggests further use of electronic tagging. CJS is calling for more ambitious measures still. Such calls should be resisted until it’s proven they reduce crime and re-offending across the cycle.

With attention focused on Brexit and the threat of Indyref2, it would be all too easy to push complex policy issues aside. But it would be completely wrong to admit defeat by failing to wrestle with these intractable issues.

Anti-social behaviour hits the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest. Taking action must remain a top-level policy priority for the Tory Party in Scotland, just as it should be for our political opponents.

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‘Twas the night before Christmas: Md. first responders surprise family with gifts

FORESTVILLE, Md. — ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Forestville fire house, first responders were stirring, led by Prince George’s County police Lt. Jen Krauss.

There wasn’t a fire to put out nor an arrest to be made; there were, instead, presents to be loaded so some Christmas spirits don’t fade.

You see, there are four kids and a mom who have been in despair, and this is something the police officers and firefighters wanted to help repair.

The mom, Sophia Chestang, has fought cancer and three strokes recently, all of this while raising her young family.

“She’s a remarkable person; she is trying so hard,” said Lt. Krauss, who was planning to catch the family off guard.

Westlake Legal Group chestang1-727x409 ‘Twas the night before Christmas: Md. first responders surprise family with gifts twas the night before christmas surprise sophia chestang Prince George's County, MD News police Maryland News Local News Latest News gift
Prince George’s County police surprise Sophia Chestang with gifts for her family on Christmas Even. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Westlake Legal Group chestang2-727x409 ‘Twas the night before Christmas: Md. first responders surprise family with gifts twas the night before christmas surprise sophia chestang Prince George's County, MD News police Maryland News Local News Latest News gift
Prince George’s County police surprise Sophia Chestang with gifts for her family on Christmas Even. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Westlake Legal Group chestang4-727x409 ‘Twas the night before Christmas: Md. first responders surprise family with gifts twas the night before christmas surprise sophia chestang Prince George's County, MD News police Maryland News Local News Latest News gift
Prince George’s County police and first responders load up with presents for Sophia Chestang’s family on Christmas Eve. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Westlake Legal Group chestang3-727x409 ‘Twas the night before Christmas: Md. first responders surprise family with gifts twas the night before christmas surprise sophia chestang Prince George's County, MD News police Maryland News Local News Latest News gift
Prince George’s County police and first responders surprise Sophia Chestang on Christmas Eve with gifts and money to pay off back rent. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

With police cars and fire trucks loaded like Santa’s sleigh, the first responders left the fire house prepared to make the mother’s day.

Red and blue lights lit up the night sky, as the motorcade moved through the streets, oh, how did they fly.

In Chestang’s apartment, through the window there were flashes of light, so she grabbed up her kids to head into the night.

When she opened her door, what did appear? A line of first responders with hands full of Christmas cheer!

In came lieutenants, sergeants, corporals and officers first class, followed by firefighters, EMTs and battalion chiefs also did pass.

Some carried bags full of food, others had wrapped gifts in tow; two officers carried a couch in and asked the family, “Where should this go?”

Chestang’s eyes filled with tears, overwhelmed by the sight. Her children’s eyes lit up like stars as they jumped with delight.

Little did Chestang know that the best hadn’t come yet. What was in a little black box is what she wouldn’t forget.

You see, her health issues had left her behind in the rent. Inside the box was money, which would be well-spent.

Krauss said, “Sophia, we’ve raised enough money to pay all your back rent.” The cash in the box covered every last cent.

Chestang started to cry, as she gave Krauss an affectionate embrace. There were smiles abound, on every face.

“A caravan of love” is what Chestang called the Christmas miracle that happened this night — how so many came together to help her out of her plight.

“Merry Christmas” and “thank you,” the family said to those who pulled off this feat, a kindhearted gesture, which will help them get back on their feet.

The seeds for a brighter future for Chestang’s family the first responders have sown. Chestang said, “It lets me know that I’m not alone.”

Once the fire trucks and police cars were unloaded, the crews headed back into the night, to serve the community so that every one could sleep tight.

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Fed judge sides with Baltimore police on surveillance device

BALTIMORE (AP) — A federal judge is siding with Baltimore police in a civil lawsuit over the use of a clandestine cellphone-surveillance device. The Daily Record reports that U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake ruled Wednesday that an order obtained by police met the requirement for a warrant. Blake reached the opposite conclusion of the Court of Special Appeals. The state appellate court ruled…

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