Most people have decided views about how our local areas should be policed. There can be marked differences in the priorities expressed by local communities, when they are asked to identify their aims for tackling crime and disorder.
Through the plans for electing Police and Crime Commissioners, people will, for the first time, have the opportunity to say how their locality is policed.
Power will shift away from Whitehall, with a new framework of democratic accountability for our police. The task of the Police and Crime Commissioners will be to make our police services truly accountable to the community, while making sure resources are properly targeted where they are needed.
From May 2012, when the first of these direct elections take place, the Commissioners will set local policing priorities and make sure chief constables are held to account. Of course the Commissioners will protect the operational independence of the police.
The spotlight has been on the introduction of Commissioners. The same Parliamentary Bill, though, is designed to give communities and our local authorities more control over other aspects of crime and disorder.
Alcohol misuse is one of the elements contributing to crime and disorder. The legislation gives greater control to local people and councils to tackle licensed premises which cause problems. New powers can restrict premises from selling alcohol late at night, for example.
There will be bigger fines for those who persist in selling alcohol to children – up to £20,000.
Everyone, not just people who live close to licensed premises, will have the chance to comment on licensing applications. Health and policing concerns can thus be considered more widely, taking more account of the impact of licensing on crime, disorder and public safety.
Councils may also be able to impose a “late night levy”, so they can charge the cost of policing such premises to the operator, rather than asking the community to foot the bill.