Exclusive: More police officers and expanding stop-and-search will help to tackle rising crime, says minister in Northampton

Minister for crime, policing and the fire service Kit Malthouse with Northamptonshire Police officers. Photo: Northamptonshire Police
Minister for crime, policing and the fire service Kit Malthouse with Northamptonshire Police officers. Photo: Northamptonshire Police

More police officers and expanding stop-and-search powers will help to address rising crime, according to the policing minister on a whistle-stop tour of Northamptonshire yesterday (Wednesday, August 14).

Northamptonshire Police is just the second constabulary the policing, crime and fire minister, Kit Malthouse, has visited since being given the job by Boris Johnson in his new government.

Minister for crime, policing and the fire service Kit Malthouse with Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable Nick Adderley, Northamptonshire police, fire and crime commissioner Stephen Mold and Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service assistant chief fire officer Shaun Hallam. Photo: Northamptonshire Police

Minister for crime, policing and the fire service Kit Malthouse with Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable Nick Adderley, Northamptonshire police, fire and crime commissioner Stephen Mold and Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service assistant chief fire officer Shaun Hallam. Photo: Northamptonshire Police

The North Hampshire MP spoke exclusively to the Chronicle & Echo about the announcements to fund an extra 20,000 police officers over the next three years and lifting some restrictions on searches to tackle a 'knife crime epidemic'.

Critics of the proposals argue the new officers is not enough as it will take numbers of officers back to pre-austerity levels, while stop-and-search is a controversial topic with accusations of discrimination towards minorities when it was less restricted.

But Mr Malthouse believes his department's schemes will help, and it does not regret the cuts made in 2010 to save money.

"Back in 2010 when the deficit was over £150bn a year, certain difficult decisions had to be made, crime was falling as well at the time, but difficult decisions had to be made about resourcing," he said.

Minister for crime, policing and the fire service Kit Malthouse with Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable Nick Adderley. Photo: Northamptonshire Police

Minister for crime, policing and the fire service Kit Malthouse with Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable Nick Adderley. Photo: Northamptonshire Police

"We now have to be agile and recognise the fact that some crimes are rising, although happily, some are falling like burglary, but certain crime types are rising and we have to be agile enough to address that.

"But also recognise there are proper capacity constraints on the police which require an uplift in pure bodies and that's why we're putting 20,000 more out there over the next three years."

Northamptonshire Police is due to get an extra 200 police officers as part of the government's latest recruitment drive launching later this year, according to Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable Nick Adderley.

Mr Malthouse said there are still many issues to be addressed before the recruitment drive starts, but ultimately he feels it will make a difference.

On stop-and-search, he added: "We need to give the police all the tools we can to deal with violence and what they're saying to us is particularly in knife crime hotspots, the ability to use stop-and-search quickly, sensitively, proportionately but quickly is absolutely key."

Currently, Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 allows police officers to search anyone in a designated area as long as they have information to back it up.

But officers will now be able to do so as soon as they have reason to suspect serious violence may take place - and they will no longer require the authorisation of an assistant chief constable.

The policy has been controversial as fears it was being used too much on ethnic minorities saw an 80 per cent reduction in its use under Theresa May's government.

Mr Malthouse said: "Section 60 is just one of the tools the police think they need so we're happy to give it to them and see how things go.

"Of course, since 2008, things have changed. Most police officers will now be wearing a body camera, which will help with the interaction from an evidential point of view but also frankly from a professionalised point of view from both sides.

"So we think it's appropriate to roll out stop-and-search to deal with the knife crime epidemic."

Mr Malthouse believes the greatest deterrent to crime is the likelihood of getting caught, and having stop-and-search as part of a police officer's powers means the perception that the country is governed is heightened.

"If you can raise that perception in young people's minds in particular then as they leave the house, when they have to make a decision about whether they take a knife with them or not, then they'll think twice if they're more likely to get caught," he said.

Mr Malthouse met with Ch Cons Adderley, Northamptonshire police, fire and crime commissioner Stephen Mold and Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service assistant chief fire officer Shaun Hallam to discuss the changes, as well as a group of four police officers.

He was also given a tour of Wootton Park Hall in Northampton, including the state-of-the-art control room funded partly by the Home Office, and went out on patrol with police.

"I'm very keen to get out onto the frontline as it can be too easy in these jobs to sit in your ministerial office and not realise what the challenges on the frontlines are so that's what I've come to do today," he said.