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David Jones: More police in Wales

Speech to the Welsh Conservative Party conference

"A few weeks ago, I spoke to a meeting of members of Age Concern in Abergele, which had been called to discuss the issue of local bus services.

One gentleman from Colwyn Bay told me that the last bus to the area of town in which he lived left at about 5.30 in the evening.

I said to him, "Doesn't that mean that you are subject to a virtual curfew, unable to leave your home at night?"

"Yes," he said, "But that doesn't really matter, because I would not under any circumstances want to leave my house after dark."

All the other pensioners at the meeting agreed with him.

They said that they felt so threatened on the streets of their towns that they did not want to go out in the evening, either.

Another man, from Towyn, told me that a gang of youths often sat on his front wall, drinking beer and throwing the empty cans into his garden.

He had tried asking them to leave, but they were abusive and he had now given up.

He had called the police, but they were overstretched and never seemed to arrive until after the youths had gone, leaving their empty cans behind them.

So he had now given up on trying to get rid of them.

We have heard a lot in the last few days about the plans of this Labour government to confine terrorist suspects in their homes without trial.

Quite rightly, this has attracted a lot of criticism from those people who are concerned about the fundamental rights that citizens of this country have enjoyed for centuries.

The truth, however, is that up and down Wales and throughout the rest of the United Kingdom, millions of people are every day subject to a kind of self-imposed house arrest because they do not feel safe on the streets of their own cities, towns, and villages.

That is a disgrace, and underlines the extent of this government's failure on crime.

Do you go out on the streets of your local town on a Friday or Saturday night? Probably not.

The reason that millions of people don't want to venture into our town centres after dark is that, increasingly, they are unpleasant places to be.

They are often full of people in varying stages of drunkenness, making life miserable for anyone unfortunate enough to be passing by.

Binge drinking, thuggery, yobbish behaviour - those are the hallmarks of Tony Blair's Britain.

North Wales Police have an initiative called "Dyna Ddigon", or "That's enough".

The aim of Dyna Ddigon is to tackle the public disorder that makes life so much more unpleasant for decent people, that keeps people such as the pensioners I spoke to in Abergele shuttered up in their homes during the hours of darkness.

The phrase "Dyna Ddigon" is in itself interesting.

It implies that the level of public disorder is such that it cannot be tolerated further.

I believe - and the Conservative Party believes - that public disorder should not be tolerated at all.

High crime rates are not inevitable - a determined government can do something to address them.

Yet increased crime, particularly crimes of violence, will be one of the most shameful legacies of this Labour government.

In North Wales, we have, sadly, seen an increase in the level of knife crime over the past few years.

In the last 12 months alone, there have been two fatal stabbings in Colwyn Bay and one in Abergele.

The Daily Post, North Wales's regional newspaper, has mounted a campaign against knife crime.

In a leading article earlier this year, the newspaper observed: "It seems people across the UK who hover around the fringes of criminality are carrying deadly knives as a matter of course. They are out there now, walking, talking, working amongst our friends and our own families. At any time another tragedy could occur."

Despairingly, the newspaper asked: "Just what on earth is going on? This is North Wales, not the Bronx."

Well, of course, North Wales isn't the Bronx.

Britain isn't the Bronx. The difference between Britain and the Bronx is that, over the last 11 years, crimes of violent assault in the Bronx have fallen by over 50%.

Since 1997, violent crime in Britain has almost doubled. The difference is that, 11 years ago, New Yorkers, fed up with the levels of crime in their city, voted in Rudolph Giuliani as Mayor.

Giuliani had a simple but effective philosophy for dealing with crime. He said that in order to beat crime we need:

1. more police officers; and

2. more local accountability - that is, local people must have a say over the priorities of the police; and

3. neighbourhood policing, with a relentless focus on improving the quality of local life by cracking down on minor disorder.

Put even more simply, we must not tolerate crime at all and must have enough police to make the policy work.

We should not say "Dyna Ddigon - that's enough". We must say that any level of criminality is too much - "Dyna Gormod".

In Wales, we have some of the finest police officers in the world. They are dedicated, they are professional, and every day each one of them puts his or her life on the line for us.

We owe them our complete support, and Conservatives intend to make sure they get it. For a start, we must ensure that there are more of them (Giuliani's first principle).

It is obviously the case that if a force has more officers to deploy, there will be more of them on the streets.

So the next Conservative government will train an extra 40,000 police officers, 5,000 per year, meaning 462 more officers for North Wales alone.

Secondly, and importantly, we need to make the police more accountable to their local communities.

Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the Metropolitan Police, said, "The police are the public and the public are the police." And that philosophy still drives most police officers today.

But today their job is made increasingly hard by targets laid down by central government. They are weighed down by the torrent of politically correct nonsense and spurious human rights gibberish that emanates from Whitehall.

Conservatives will restore the link between the police and the people, by introducing directly-elected Police Commissioners, answerable to electors, who will work with Chief Constables to set local policing priorities that reflect the concerns of communities.

So, to take a random example, the North Wales Police Commissioner might decide that we need less emphasis on speed cameras and more on combating drugs.

I am sure that that would find favour with the electors of North Wales. And we also need more emphasis on neighbourhood policing.

You remember the story I told you about the pensioner in Towyn who was persecuted by the beer-drinking yobs?

I told that story some time ago in the local newspaper. The local beat manager was so concerned that he telephoned me and asked for the gentleman's address so that he could contact him.

He really cared about what happened to people on his patch.

Police are caring people - they are on our side.

But there are not enough of them on our streets.

And that is simply because there are not enough of them in the first place.

And also because they are tied up with the red tape that keeps them in their police stations.

Completing reams of unnecessary paperwork, like they foot-long form they have to fill up every time they stop someone on the street.

So the next Conservative government will tear up that form. And loads of other forms too.

And give the police - and the new colleagues who will soon be joining them - more time to walk the streets, to speak to people in their communities.

To take a robust, proactive approach to the disorder and yobbish behaviour that blights the lives of people like the pensioners in Abergele.

To stop the scandal of people having to barricade themselves in their own homes at night.

To make our streets, once again, safe places to be, whatever the time of day or night."

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