Home Secretary Priti Patel sat down with the Braintree and Witham Times on Friday August 9 for an exclusive interview to talk about knife crime, Hatfield Estate, stop and search, social spending, her promise for 20,000 new police officers, and her claim that criminals should "literally feel terror" at the thought of committing crime.

Here is the transcript in full. 

Priti Patel, thank you for being here. Could you just outline a little bit about what the purpose of your visit is today?

Well I mean this is a Friday afternoon and I spend most of my Fridays in my constituency, but today in particular is somewhat more unusual than my last police visit. I was out literally two months ago with the chief inspector BJ Harrington walking the same route obviously here in Witham. But today in particular I’m meeting the town team lead because through the increase in police numbers that I campaigned for last year we’ve now got town teams in Witham, in Braintree and Halstead but on top of that of course in my capacity as Home Secretary we are now committed to recruiting 20,000 more police officers, spending over £900million and investing in policing and delivering in local policing across our communities and my view on this has always been consistent that I think my constituents and residents and members of the public across the country, they want visibility when it comes to policing and they want to know that police officers are out there on the streets looking after our people, our communities, our towns, our villages and absolutely deterring the harms and crime and making sure that we prevent crime from taking place in our communities.

So how many of those 20,000 police officers are going to be coming to Essex and specifically to your constituency in Witham?

Well, we’ll be making national policing numbers decisions later on this year but I can be very very clear as someone that campaigned for more police in Essex and obviously more police in the Witham constituency which I’m seeing here today that is something that obviously you know I will be continuing to work to achieve, not just as the local MP but now obviously in my capacity as Home Secretary.

I don’t know if you saw it but in our edition this week of the Braintree and Witham Times, we had a person say that there is drug dealing on Hatfield Estate in Witham and burglaries and violence have been increasing recently. He also asked specifically for you: “Where is our MP?” What would you say to him?

Well as a Member of Parliament I’m in my constituency every single week and when it comes to local policing and crime initiatives and issues, I’m always raising these concerns directly with the police. And to be fair, only a month ago I was raising not just a spate of crime but lead thefts, burglaries and shop thefts that have taken place and actually we’re sitting here in the Newlands Centre and it was actually over a year and a half ago where we had a serious problem with criminality, anti-social behaviour, shops around here being broken into and I raised that directly with the police chief, with our Police and Crime Commissioner, we had a meeting in the public hall last summer that all members were invited to come along to and it is because of that meeting we got more police officers in Witham town and the new town team policing team that are walking our streets in Witham today.

Brilliant. Back in May this year, Steve Taylor, Chairman of the Essex Police Federation said, and I quote: “The solution to knife crime is long-term and it requires investment in better social care, better education and better community projects” and he added that we are anecdotally learning that “people are not deterred by the criminal justice system.” Do you agree?

Well I think actually there are a range of factors that are behind serious violent crime. There’s no doubt that you know we have to look at having a much more integrated approach across society. It’s not just for central government approach and the criminal justice system to address this. We have a public health duty looking at mental health issues. We have a duty with our young people and our education system as well. There’s been far too much off-rolling I’ve been very vocal about this as well in schools in Witham that have stopped that practice because it’s led to young people just falling out of the education system and absolutely not being served well by the state and by society, they have been let down basically. But on top of that, of course, we need to do something else which is to empower our police. So yesterday I was in London at New Scotland Yard talking to them about taking weapons off our streets, taking knives off our streets and that’s effectively why we need more police officer to make sure that they are empowered, they have the resources to do exactly that, to prevent crime. But I think we must recognise of course there is no one-size-fits-all, there are a range of issues: social services, education, the health system, all these key elements must come together.

Brilliant. You said in the Sunday Times [correction: Mail on Sunday] on Sunday you literally – you want criminals to “literally feel terror at the thought of committing crime.” You just said that a lot of young people falling out of education and that may be one of the reasons why they go to crime. In order to achieve that goal, how is policing going to change on the ground? What is modern policing going to look like under Priti Patel?

Well modern policing must of course be visible policing and that means community policing, localised policing and having police visibility that police officers are empowered to do their jobs. For too long we’ve had our police forces, police officers tied up with regulation and bureaucracy. I want them to feel free to get on and do their jobs, I want them to know that we will support them. I as their Home Secretary will support them, we’ll invest in them, we will continue to train them, we’ll continue to invest in technology as well to beat crime and tackle crime. But also to ensure that they have a fundamental link with their communities because I think that is really important in stopping not just young people but actually deterring, having a full deterrent preventing crime from taking place across our communities.

[Aide: There’s time for one more question].

Stop and Search in Essex has been going up drastically in the last six months. It’s now higher than it was – the number of stop and searches are higher than they were in the whole of last year already in 2019. However, it’s also true that if you’re black you’re five times more likely to be stopped and searched in Essex than if you are white. Do you think that increasing stop and search will make black feel more victimised in this county?

No I don’t and I just think that’s a very very poor generalisation around stop and search. You know I’ve already spoken about empowering police and giving them their powers and ability to get on and do the job and the point about stop and search and I mentioned I was in London yesterday: in London alone, the use of stop and search has led to a 15 per cent reduction in under-25s basically from being harmed by taking weaponry off people and I think that is so important. I’ve actually been out on police patrols you know in the summer last year and earlier on this year where I’ve gone to places like Braintree and I’ve been with the police where they have stopped people and searched them and found them carrying things that they should not have been carrying. So I think it is a very very significant move to protect our people, to protect our communities, our villages, our towns and by doing that it’s important that we empower our police to make sure that they can get on and take those harms and people who want to do harm off our streets.