The last ten years of austerity have made policing much more difficult than it should be.
This is not just because we have lost 20,000 police officers across the country, with 500 going in South Yorkshire, but because the social fabric of our communities has been so damaged as well.
When I travel to evening meetings in some of the former pit towns and villages in South Yorkshire I often see groups of young people standing around on street corners or in bus shelters with little or nothing to do. The loss of so many facilities for younger people has been devastating.
Of course, austerity was adding to losses already suffered as a result of the collapse of the mining and steel industries. When a pit closed, so many other amenities and social activities associated with it shut down as well – from clubs to brass bands.
This has nothing directly to do with policing but we know that those young people I so often see are easy prey to the gangs and dealers.
Carrying packages for someone looks like easy money. But it draws young people into criminality and blights their futures.
I met someone recently who had just discovered that a caution he had as a teenager now prevented him going to America.
This is why I give grants to support activities and organisations for young people – like the JADE youth and community centre in Dinnington. This is a brilliant facility and those who run it are always thinking of new projects to improve the quality of everyone’s life and experiences.
As with all community initiatives, you need really dedicated people to run them, whether paid or voluntary. Their satisfaction lies in seeing lives enriched or turned around and without them we would really be struggling.
This year the government has finally woken up to the fact that if you cut the number of police officers year on year sooner or later violent crime goes up.
I had already decided to increase overall officer numbers anyway – an extra 220 by 2024. Now the prime minister is promising that the numbers lost since 2010 will be put back.
I welcome that. But I would welcome just as much a commitment to value our young people better by restoring all the youth provision that has been lost.
If we did that we would help to reduce crime and make the work of policing easier.