Labour vows to ‘take back town centres from thugs and thieves’

Labour is pledging to boost neighbourhood policing and “take back our town centres from thugs and thieves” as it attacks the Conservatives’ record on law and order.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper vowed to “rebuild safety on Britain’s streets” and get more officers out from behind desks and into the community.

She reaffirmed her promise to put 13,000 police and community support officers in neighbourhood roles, as Labour seeks to pitch itself as the party of law and order ahead of the General Election.

Following its latest campaign pledge to slash NHS waiting times, the party is on Thursday setting out its next steps in improving Britain’s public services, with a focus on policing.

Ms Cooper, who is expected to visit South Yorkshire on Thursday, said she would run a “hands-on Home Office” if she takes its reins after the election and make cutting crime a top priority.

Labour highlighted figures it said showed that since Rishi Sunak entered Downing Street in late 2022, snatch thefts of mobile phones have almost doubled – from 30,000 to 58,000.

Pickpocketing incidents have risen from 206,000 to 321,000, robberies have increased by 13% and knife crime by 7%, according to the party’s analysis of Office for National Statistics Crime Survey for England and Wales data.

Keir Starmer visit to Netherlands
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at Europol in The Hague (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

And half of the public said they never or almost never see an officer on patrol, according to Labour.

These rises come as total arrests have halved since 2010, it said, pointing to Home Office data.

Ms Cooper said: “On Rishi Sunak’s watch, 90% of crimes are going unsolved and knife-wielding muggers, phone thieves and pickpockets can get away with menacing our town centres and neighbourhoods.

“Ministers have done nothing to tackle the new organised crime wave that is hitting local shops and streets. That is the Tory legacy on law and order, and our communities are paying the price.

“Enough is enough. Labour will rebuild safety on Britain’s streets and take back our town centres from thugs and thieves, with 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs back on the beat in our communities, tough new powers to crack down on those who cause havoc on our high streets, and a mission to reverse the collapse in the number of crimes being solved.

“Labour will put an end to Tory chaos and be a government of law and order, putting the safety and security of our communities at its heart and taking back our streets.”

General Election campaign 2024
Labour accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of overseeing a rise in street crime (Aaron Chown/PA)

Sir Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions, has put a strong emphasis on law and order policies – traditionally seen as Conservative territory.

Labour has repeatedly promised to bolster town-centre policing, with Sir Keir echoing New Labour prime minister Tony Blair’s “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” rhetoric from the 1990s.

The party said its plans draw lessons from the last Labour government, but with a focus on new technology and data analysis.

It said it has received backing from former police leaders, including ex-chief constable for Devon and Cornwall Stephen Otter.

Mr Otter said: “Years of Conservative government have seen a shocking decay in neighbourhood policing across the country which has led to a worrying decline in levels of trust in the police.

“Labour’s plans to put police back on our streets and to give local people a say in how their local area is policed is hugely welcome.”

Policing minister Chris Philp said the policy “isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”.

He added: “This is the same party that fought to keep violent murderers and sexual offenders in Britain by stopping deportation flights and tried to take Tasers off our police.

“Only 3,000 of their proposed new officers would be full-time officers with the power of arrest and 3,000 of them are officers this government has already recruited; contrast that with the Conservatives who have recruited record police numbers with 20,000 more since 2019.”