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FIGHTING THE FEAR OF CRIME

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The effective use of new powers to support the police in the fight against antisocial behaviour could help tackle t...
The effective use of new powers to support the police in the fight against antisocial behaviour could help tackle the underlying fear of crime, justice minister Cathy Jamieson said today.

Ahead of a speech to the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, the minister said it was generally accepted that fear of crime was out of proportion to the actual risk of becoming a victim but argued that it was through fast, visible action against low-level yobbish behaviour that greater confidence can be instilled in the police's ability to deal with rarer, but more serious violent crime.

Ms Jamieson said:

'People tell me that they want to feel safe in their homes and communities, and that they feel safer when they see the police. That's why we now have a record 16,000 officers employed throughout Scotland - backed by a record pound sterling1b a year of investment. People also tell me that if an offence is committed, they want to see the person who committed it being caught and dealt with swiftly and effectively.

'Provided they are used to their potential, the new measures in the antisocial behaviour legislation give the police and local agencies the power to take swift and effective action - like the ability to impose closure orders on premises at the centre of antisocial behaviour or confiscate vehicles from boy-racers - they play an important part in building communities' confidence.

'Indeed, if local communities start to see that blatant low-level antisocial behaviour can and is being tackled, this will help improve their trust in the police and their overall sense of security. Action - not just words of reassurance.

'Action that will become increasingly important given the likely impact of the new Scottish Crime Recording Standard, which while improving recording practices and the consistency of crime recording across Scotland's police forces, will in the short-term almost certainly result in increases in the number of minor crimes being recorded by the police in many communities. Increases in recordings - not necessarily increases in offences.

'For our part, we will continue to push ahead with a range of justice reforms to further support the police in their fight against crime and the fear of crime in Scotland. We have listened to the public's genuine concerns about issues such as bail and remand, and early release - and that's why the Sentencing Commission was asked to examine these two areas as a priority. We are now considering how best to take forward the commission's recommendations in relation to bail. And while we have still to receive the report on early release, we have already made clear that the current arrangements will change.

'In the past six months, we have also set out how radical plans to tackle Scotland's high rates of re-offending through our Management of Offenders Bill. And announced new proposals to be included in our forthcoming police bill to further strengthen the powers of the police to tackle knife crime and the shameful sectarianism and violence that mars too many football matches across the country. Practical steps that will increasingly show our communities that we mean business.'

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