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Home Secretary: op-ed on tackling violent crime and new security relationships

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Home Secretary Priti Patel has written in the Sunday Telegraph about tackling violent crime through the introduction of Violence Reduction Units, extending police powers and forging new international security relationships.

Violence on Britain's streets is being fuelled by guns, knives and drugs trafficked from abroad

As Home Secretary, my number one job is to make sure that people are safe. No one should ever have to walk our streets afraid of being attacked.

But the sad truth is, there has been a rise in some high-harm violent offences such as those involving knives and guns. Stabbings in Barnet and Elstree and a shooting in Battersea brought this reality home over the Christmas period.

The homicide rate has started rising after a period of long-term decline and this rise has been most pronounced among young men. These crimes have devastating effects on our communities and often feel like very local crimes.

But it’s a bleak fact that much of the violence is fuelled with trafficked guns, weapons and drugs that originate elsewhere. Street crime has become more internationalised.

There is no one, simple solution to this. Our response has to be local, national and international. Locally, we have to understand what drives too many young people towards serious violence and intervene early.

So on Sunday I am announcing a £35 million funding boost for Violence Reduction Units, which work to combat knife crime on our streets and to stop vulnerable young people from being drawn into a life of violence.

These units bring together different organisations, including police, local government, health and other key partners, to prevent serious violence by understanding what causes violent crime. They were set up in the summer and are already having an impact.

In Northumbria, the units are using virtual reality technology to bring home the consequences of knife crime to young people. In South Wales, they are putting specially trained people in hospital A&E departments to provide support to those involved in violence when they are most vulnerable.

At a national level, we are hiring 20,000 new police officers over the next three years. We are doing all we can to give them the intelligence, tools and powers they need to react swiftly and stop dangerous criminals in their tracks.

More officers are going to be equipped with tasers and have extended stop-and-search powers so they can take more weapons off the streets. Every senior police officer I meet tells me that these powers are absolutely vital.

And we are going to bolster stop and search even further, by giving police the ability to stop and search anyone out on licence convicted of knife crime.

Anyone caught with a knife can expect to be in court in a matter of days, not weeks, and those found guilty will spend longer in prison cells. Internationally, we are stepping up cooperation with our allies.

Take Interpol, for example – an organisation we’ve neglected for too long. The appointment of Stephen Kavanagh, the former chief constable of my local force, Essex, as Interpol’s executive director of policing will enhance our standing in this crucial organisation.

In January, we will introduce legislation to transform Interpol red notices from our close partners into a powerful new tool for law enforcement.

Earlier this year, an alert was issued across the EU for a fugitive wanted for murder after a street robbery. He was arrested straight away in the UK and taken to a judge to decide on his extradition to face murder charges.

Thanks to the Extradition Bill, police will be able to take similar decisive action if the alert comes from a trusted country outside the EU, such as Australia or Canada. And as promised in 2016, we will finally take back control of our borders.

The reality is that, as Home Secretary, my powers to stop EU criminals entering the UK is far more limited than it is for non-EU criminals.
By getting Brexit done on January 31, we have a once in a generation opportunity to unshackle the country from free movement rules and strengthen our ability to stop criminals from entering the UK. Electronic travel authorisations will be required in order to enter the UK, allowing pre-screening before people arrive at the border.

We will also be able to increase our security against illicit goods such as drugs and firearms by collecting pre-arrival goods data to target criminals and stop smuggling.

These are real changes after Brexit that will help make the British people safer. But we are not turning our backs on our friends in Europe. We want to build on our crime-fighting cooperation.

We are a huge contributor to Europol, providing more intelligence to the agency’s databases than almost any other country and are involved in 40 per cent of messages passing through it.

We share more criminal record information with Europe than almost any other country, which is a consistent pattern over many years, and by exchanging DNA data with Europe, we have provided intelligence to progress the investigations of previously unsolved European crimes.

We start negotiations next year from a position of strength and close cooperation already. So it’s in all of our interests to strike a strong security relationship with the EU after Brexit, and to continue to act as a bridge between Europe and the US. This is not going to be a quick fix, but we are in it for the long-haul.

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