Is criminal behaviour a symptom of a complex societal sickness?

From Stephen Lawrence and Hillsborough, to Wayne Couzens and David Carrick – trust in the police is at an all-time low, especially among women and ethnic minority communities. Scandal after scandal is being uncovered

I’ve seen firsthand many professional, dedicated, and caring officers and support staff.  They work hard to uphold justice and keep people safe.  I feel for them – they must feel betrayed when those in power allow a toxic culture to fester.  It makes their already difficult job harder. 

The public instinctively understand there can be a bad apple in any organisation.  What’s unacceptable is a cover-up culture.  The perception of police closing ranks instead of opening themselves up to public scrutiny.

We all know places where crime is endemic.  Where law abiding people have neighbours on the edge of the law.  With persistent anti-social behaviour.  Who can they turn to if they don’t trust the police? 

“In effect, what we are witnessing is the decriminalisation of rape,” said former Northumbria Police & Crime Commissioner Dame Vera Baird.  The conviction rate stands at less than 1%.  Less than 1%.  Traumatised by the assault, survivors are then re-traumatised when the criminal justice system fails them.  Why hasn’t this been addressed? 

I’ve been aware of domestic violence since I was young.  My Mam was the first Chair of the Middlesbrough Refuge from Domestic Violence. Back then it was informally called the Battered Wives Home – the language has changed since then.  The problem, sadly, has not. 

I remember playing with kids who were in the refuge with their mothers. One time an ex-partner tracked down the address and forced his way in.  A brave member of staff tried to protect her, and was punched in the face by the violent man.  She needed hospital treatment and carried a permanent facial injury affecting her sight.  I can feel the anger rising as type this, now, over forty years later.  Lord alone knows how it must feel to survivors.  Or those trapped in a gaslighting relationship.  And minority ethnic, or trans, victims of domestic abuse suffer a whole other layer of conscious and unconscious bias. 

That’s why allies are so important.  I always wear the White Ribbon on my suit, and the North of Tyne is a White Ribbon organisation.  It’s the campaign for men to stand up against men who create a culture of misogyny.  And I’m proud to say my two teenage sons are supporters too. 

Criminal behaviour is a complex problem, a symptom of wider societal sickness.  Residents flag up anti-social behaviour to me all the time, and ask for more community policing.  That’s not the role of the Mayor, nor will it be after we come together in the new North East devolution deal in May 2024. 

My position, as North of Tyne Mayor, will be replaced by the North East Mayor – essentially the same job over a larger area.  But our two existing police and crime commissioners will still exist.  The new Mayor will not take on those powers.  Northumbria and Durham will remain as separate police constabularies. 

Research shows that if everyone has a secure, well-paid job, crime would halve overnight.  The 4,803 new jobs in the North of Tyne will help reduce crime. 

Helping the 650 kids who’ve been excluded from school get a decent education will change their futures, which is why we’re working on it. 

The widely praised North of Tyne Child Poverty Prevention programme takes pressure of families, and will directly help 1,600 kids by this July. 

Our skills bootcamps give ex-offenders free vocational training and a guaranteed job interview, and  fresh start in life. 

And NU Futures – the superb new youth centre we funded near St James Park – runs extensive community outreach programmes targeting thousands of young people across the North of Tyne.  In its first year over 500 young women and girls got opportunities to access career pathways and bright futures in football. 

One of the reasons I worked so hard to land the new North East devolution deal was so we can roll out great programmes like these south of the Tyne, into Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland and County Durham.  A share of that £4.3 billion will change lives.