Visit to an LA Police Department

I've been in the United States for the last few days, where next year's presidential election campaigns are already in full swing.

The current Republican frontrunner is former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Together with police chief Bill Bratton, his greatest achievement was to cut crime in the city by 75 per cent in the 1990s. They did it by "zero tolerance" policing, increasing officers on the streets, and holding them accountable.

Bratton is now police chief in Los Angeles, and I went to see him this week. In the light of the recent shootings in the UK, I particularly wanted to know how he's tackling violent crime and gangs. He's already cut the number of homicides and aggravated assaults in the city by a fifth in two years.

He warned that, elsewhere in the US, a focus on counter-terrorist activity has seen a reduction in police numbers, with the result that violent crime is rising again. There's a lesson for Britain here - Gordon Brown has cut the Community Support Officers he promised us by 8,000.

In his cop's uniform, Bratton looked as though he'd happily patrol the streets himself. He's a no-nonsense crime fighter.

By contrast, last week the former chief constable of Sussex criticised David Cameron's call for action on violent crime, claiming that it had fallen.

Really? The number of injuries and deaths caused by gun attacks has quadrupled in the last ten years. We face the highest level of assaults in Europe, and there is more risk of being robbed on our streets than in the US.

The recent spate of knife attacks in our Sussex coastal towns clearly demonstrates that we have a serious problem.

When the community can elect local crime commissioners, they and their chief constables will have to deliver, as Giuliani and Bratton did. I doubt those who dispute public concern about crime will keep their jobs for very long.

Michelle Taylorpolice