Against the backdrop of rising crime across the country, the shadow home secretary visited Stevenage to talk about her plan to tackle offenders.

"Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime - that's what we promised when Labour came into government in 1997," Yvette Cooper said.

Twenty five years have passed since the MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford in Yorkshire joined the Labour benches at the start of Tony Blair's premiership.

Now out of government for 12 years, Mrs Cooper wants a renewed focus on the old Labour slogan.

The Comet: Yvette Cooper: "Safe communities are strong communities" (File picture)Yvette Cooper: "Safe communities are strong communities" (File picture) (Image: Peter Byrne/PA Wire/PA Images)

She said: "I think there's a huge problem after 12 years of Conservative government, what with the damage they have done both to policing and the criminal justice system.

"Too often, people feel that if something goes wrong, then the police don't come because they are so overstretched.

"If the police do come, then nobody's arrested.

"Even if somebody is arrested, fewer people are charged and more are being let off.

"As a result, more victims are being let down."

Mrs Cooper took in The Hyde, Shephall on her visit to Stevenage.

According to official data, out of the crimes reported to Hertfordshire Constabulary in the borough of Stevenage in the year to July 2022, police have been unable to secure a prosecution in 3,319 cases so far.

An additional 2,494 are listed as "complete" without any suspect ever having been identified.

At the start of October 2022, police were still investigating 814 cases from the same time period, while an extra 420 were in the courts system awaiting a resolution.

Nationwide, government records show there has been a decline in the number of arrests since 2008/2009 - from 1.43 million to 994,613 in 2012/13, then down to 667,188 in 2018/19.

But police recorded crime has risen rapidly since 2013/14 - from 4.03 million cases to 5.97 million in 2018/19, then to 6.3 million in 2021/22.

The Comet: Police recorded crimes vs the number of arrests in the UK before the Covid-19 pandemic, between 2006/07 and 2018/19Police recorded crimes vs the number of arrests in the UK before the Covid-19 pandemic, between 2006/07 and 2018/19 (Image: The Comet/

Mrs Cooper said: "There's been a big drop in the number of cases going to court.

"That's really damaging, because it means people feel there are no consequences.

"I think this is a result of austerity and the scale of cuts to policing, but also a result of this 'sink or swim' or laissez faire approach that the Conservatives have taken to crime and justice.

"They've stepped back. They haven't shown leadership.

"They haven't taken action when crime has been changing.

"They haven't taken action around the mental health crises that have been putting pressures on policing as well.

"Communities are feeling really let down.

"If people don't feel safe, we know it means they won't go shopping in their town centres or they won't go out to the pub in the evening.

"Businesses won't invest if they don't feel their property and customers are safe.

"So issues around community safety have an impact on local economies and a huge impact on families."

The Comet: Yvette Cooper with former prime minister Gordon Brown in 2009Yvette Cooper with former prime minister Gordon Brown in 2009 (Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/PA Images)

Yvette Cooper quickly rose through the ranks of the Blair and Gordon Brown administrations.

The Labour MP became a health minister in 1999 and, after roles in the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Treasury, became the secretary of state for work and pensions between 2009 and the end of the last Labour government in 2010.

The administration which she was part of presided over a drop in the number of reported crimes from 2003/04 which lasted until 2011/12 - from 6.01 million reports to 4.38 million.

Did Mrs Cooper's government leave a legacy?

"I was one of the ministers involved in the rollout of Sure Start, so it was devastating to see so many Sure Start centres being closed.

"That has a long-term impact on preventing crime.

"I've talked to primary school headteachers who said that when they had a local Sure Start shut down, they could see the difference in terms of families and children struggling much more.

"The Tories did long-term damage not just to the justice system but on prevention.

"We've got to make sure the police aren't so overstretched because they're picking up the pieces.

"I've heard about officers sitting with mental health patients for 12 hours because the health services can't cope, or being called out to use a defibrillator before paramedics arrive."

Mrs Cooper added: "Safe communities are strong communities."