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Scotland urged to learn about crime fighting from New York – Press & Journal

Katrine Bussey
Press & Journal, 14 April 2008

Scotland was today urged to learn lessons from New York in the fight against crime.

A report by an independent think-tank said it should look across the Atlantic to see how police in the Big Apple dealt with the problem.

The Reform Scotland report highlighted figures which showed only 148 police officers were on the beat at any one time in Scotland.

It said there is now more violent crime per head of population in Glasgow than in New York.
Figures for 2006-07 show that for every 100,000 people there were 731 incidents in Glasgow, compared to 631 in New York.

The report told how New York had introduced a more accountable and transparent police service, combined with a zero-tolerance approach.

And it said that crime in the American city fell by 67% between 1993 and 2004.

The report said: “The best example of a change in policing structures leading to a dramatic fall in crime is the experience of New York City over the past 20 years.

“New York City proves that an increasing crime rate isn’t inevitable and the tide can be turned.”

Tory justice spokesman MSP Bill Aitken said the figures on the number of police on the beat in Scotland showed that “the thin blue line has been stretched to breaking point”.
He said that was why his party had pushed for 1,000 extra police officers in the Scottish budget and added: “The next task is to get as many of our police as possible out in our communities, deterring crime, catching criminals and reassuring the public.”

The report, Power For The Public, examined the provision of health, education and justice in Scotland. It said the budgets for these three areas had grown by 55%, 87% and 44% respectively over the last decade, but added this had produced “mixed results”.

It claimed that in health, Scotland compared “poorly” with other European countries, including England, despite improvements in life expectancy, waiting lists and mortality rates.

In education, attainment in schools has increased and the number of youngsters leaving school without going into further education, employment or training is down. But the report pointed out international rankings put Scotland below a number of European nations, including England.

The report said improvements to public services had not matched those in other countries, despite increases in spending in Scotland.
Reform Scotland called for public services to be more directly accountable to people and local communities.

The report said decisions should be taken “as close as possible to the people they affect”. It also called for a more diverse approach to the provision of public services, saying this could come from having different approaches in different areas, as well as a wider range or providers.

Ben Thomson, chairman of Reform Scotland, said: “The challenge for Scotland is clear. If we aspire to public services which match those of other countries then we need to be open to new ideas.

“Other countries have found better ways of providing public services, while guaranteeing universal access regardless of ability to pay. We need to learn these lessons and apply those that are appropriate. That will ensure that people in Scotland receive the services they have a right to expect.” Read the Press & Journal here.