Tom Horn of Heart Radio in Cambridgeshire was given one of the first interviews with newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright.
Graham Bright was asked about his priorities. His response was that the first was “anti-social behaviour”, with “catching criminals” only coming in at number two.
Asked: “what are your priorities for Cambridgeshire” Police and Crime Commissioner Bright responded:
My priorities are to address the needs of the people of Cambridgeshire.
Number one from everywhere, and not just as one might suspect, Cambridge and Peterborough, but in the villages, is to address antisocial-behaviour and that covers a whole raft of things … speeding, you name it, parking on footpaths it’s all anti-social behaviour.
We’ll try and address that because people feel threatened by it.
Particularly older people are very concerned; they do get worried about these things.
That is the number one priority.
The next one is to make sure we actually catch criminals.
What Police and Crime Commissioner Bright Means by Anti-Social Behaviour
Many people have tried to pin down Commissioner Bright on what he means by making anti-social behaviour his top priority. This is something I asked him when he invited Cambridge residents to join him for a chat on the Market Square and I went to ask him some questions about his policies. There Mr Bright mentioned “drunkenness” and “drug dealing”.
Now he has told us “you name it” essentially endlessly expanding the definition of “anti-social behaviour” that he is using.
The definition is important as this lets us know what our Commissioner will be asking our police to focus on.
When things like “speeding” and “drug dealing” are included as anti-social behaviour I wonder what, if any, consequence this has for the way these crimes are dealt with by the police. Does it mean that anti-social behaviour laws will be used and perpetrators will not face the courts for example? The police choosing to deal with offences such as speeding outside the usual due process is something I have commented on previously; my view is that motoring offences are best dealt with via proper due-process so those guilty of them risk penalties such as driving bans.
I am also concerned about targeting people who have not done anything illegal, or something that would not be illegal if it wasn’t for our anti-social behaviour laws.
The focus on anti-social behaviour may well put Commissioner Bright into conflict with Chief Constable Parr as Mr Parr has been trying hard not to “do the right thing” in the face of New Labour’s Anti-Social Behaviour laws and avoid unnecessarily criminalising young people.
The “you name it” approach to defining anti-social behaviour may also lead to problems; as many parish councillors, neighbourhood watch members and similar describe youths merely gathering on green spaces or playing football as anti-social behaviour. For examples see:
- Police Set Bassingbourne and Melbourn Police Priorities – April 2012
- Police Priority Setting for South West Peterborough in Orton Goldhay – June 2012
Levels of Concern
Commenters on Mr Bright’s approach have noted that the current Police and Crime Plan states:
Surveys also show only 1.146 per cent of the county’s population feels there is a high level of anti-social behaviour in their area.
I suspect there may be a difference between what Mr Bright is hearing from elderly people who are involved in neighbourhood watch and parish councils (groups he has mentioned he has been, and intends to keep, focusing on) and the population at large. If Commissioner Bright is to primarily seek to re-present the views he hears to the police then the question of who he listens to, and how, is key. A survey of a rigorously selected representative sample of the population may tell him something quite different to what he has found to-date from talking to his party members and others interested in the election.
- My October 2012 Article on What I Suggested Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Ought do in Relation to Anti-Social Behaviour.
I can only comment on someone else’s interview of Mr Bright because he refused to speak to me. The Heart Radio article on the election result is here.