Monday, 24 September 2012

Why language matters

I had a letter the other day from the Howard League for Penal Reform.

The organisation was asking Police and Crime Commissioner candidates not to demonise young people in talking about crime and policing.

I know from my time as a Councillor for Cressington and continuing work in South Liverpool that there are times when people feel alarmed by groups of young people. And not all young people are angels of course.

But it's vital that this doesn't translate into blaming young people for everything

It's easy media (and sadly political) shorthand to imply that all our anti social behaviour problems would disappear if only the young people stayed inside.

But the problem with lazy language like that is not only is it unfair to the vast majority of young people, it also increases fear of crime among those who see them.

So I hope we'll all be minding our language in this campaign.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Listening to Young People

Next month I'll be discussing crime and crime issues with young people at an event at Liverpool Town Hall.

Its part of the Eurvoice programme organised by the European Youth Parliament.

The young people will be  having a chance to share their views and put questions to a group of panellists.  I will be one of the panellists.

The event's on October 16th.  There's some information about Eurvoice at this link.

I am really looking forward to this.  Media commentary on crime related things can often focus on young people as somehow the problem.  But in many areas young people are actually more likely to be victims of crime.

What are the public's priorities?

Some time ago I had a leaflet through  my door from the police.  If you live on Merseyside you should have had the same one.

It was part of an attempt by Merseyside Police to get people's thoughts on what their priorities are when it comes to policing, anti social behaviour, crime prevention and so on.

When you think how many people live on Merseyside, that's quite a big effort.

Yet the response rate (the number of people who sent things back) was less than two percent and that was actually up on previous years.

Commercial market researchers are used to relatively low responses and build this in to what they are doing.

But the whole issue of making our communities safe and protecting individuals and their freedoms is a tad more important than finding out what brand of shampoo we prefer.

This is not necessarily to criticise the police for doing it.  They have to do it by law and aside from that I do believe that Merseyside Police  make efforts to find out what the priorities and thoughts of their public are.

But, as someone who teaches Public Relations and Communications, it strikes me that the methods being used, or being visibly used, are not really getting to the bottom of what people think or feel.

One of the roles of the new Police and Crime Commissioner is effectively to be the public voice.  And you can't do that without putting huge efforts into finding out what people value and how people feel about safety in their communities.

I'll be blogging again about this but looking at the limited media coverage so far of these new roles it strikes me that this one seems rather overlooked.

Hate Crime

According to Home Office figures, analysed by the Guardian, of every thousand crimes recorded on Merseyside over a year, 14 of them were hate crimes.

Recording hate crimes as such is a fairly recent thing and they are clearly statistically quite rare (with numbers falling nationally)

But if you are the victim of one of these, or a witness, the fact that it's statistically rare won't be much of a comfort.

On Merseyside, by far the biggest category of Hate Crime are those around Race (more than one thousand)

(There is a definition of hate crime along with the figures and some analysis  in the Guardian article which you can find here)

This for me is one of those categories of crime where raising awareness and increasing understanding is part of the battle.  And as the role of Police and Crime Commissioner is about reducing crime, it's clearly important that this gets focused on.

Candidate Selected

I have been selected as the Liberal Democrat Candidate for the Elected Police and Crime Commissioner post in Merseyside.

This new role basically replaces the Police Authority.  The election takes place in November.

This blog will concentrate on what I am doing on the Campaign, on thoughts on police and crime related issues and on information about the role.