Crimes and pun­ish­ment

Coun­cil­lor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - OPPOSING VIEW -

My Labour Group col­leagues and I per­form reg­u­lar “street surg­eries” in or­der to un­cover the is­sues fac­ing our com­mu­ni­ties.

In ad­di­tion to the usual dif­fi­cul­ties peo­ple face with fly tip­ping and con­cerns about the state of our roads and schools, there has been a no­tice­able uptick in wor­ries about crime.

This news­pa­per cat­a­logues the lat­est out­rages: a woman mur­dered by her con­trol­ling boyfriend, a dec­o­rated vet­eran whose medals were stolen, a fall­ing ar­rest rate for do­mes­tic abuse. By no means is Peter­bor­ough alone in its plight: our story is echoed across the coun­try.

The first duty of the state is to pro­tect the peo­ple. It can only do this if it has the means to up­hold the law. I, along with my Labour Group col­leagues, be­lieve that re­cent cuts to the po­lice are mak­ing this task much more dif­fi­cult.

Of­ten, the Labour slo­gan, “For the Many, Not the Few” is in­ter­preted as an eco­nomic premise, that pros­per­ity should be­long to all, not just the up­per ech­e­lons of so­ci­ety.

How­ever, this prin­ci­ple ap­plies to jus­tice as well: there should not be a cor­ner of this city that doesn’t have re­course to the law and law en­force­ment to en­sure its safety. There is no form of equal­ity that is more fun­da­men­tal to a just so­ci­ety than equal­ity be­fore the law.

Un­for­tu­nately, this is not al­ways the case.

A col­league of mine was a can­di­date in one of Peter­bor­ough’s less cen­tral wards: he re­ported that an in­ci­dent of break­ing and en­ter­ing took over twelve hours to in­ves­ti­gate. I’d like to clar­ify at this point that it was not be­cause the po­lice were in any way neg­li­gent.

Rather, the is­sue was that they were over­stretched: if you have a sud­den crime on your hands, say in­volv­ing a car ac­ci­dent or phys­i­cal vi­o­lence, these by ne­ces­sity will de­mand your im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion. The cuts to law en­force­ment have meant that there just isn’t the cov­er­age to han­dle the num­ber of in­ci­dents which oc­cur. As suc­cess­ful “zero tol­er­ance” poli­cies in cities across the world have proven con­clu­sively, there is sim­ply no sub­sti­tute for the po­lice be­ing there.

This sit­u­a­tion is un­ac­cept­able. How­ever, our lo­cal Con­ser­va­tive ad­min­is­tra­tion doesn’t ap­pear to be be­ing proac­tive in ad­dress­ing the prob­lem. In the ab­sence of a gov­ern­ment that funds the po­lice ad­e­quately, we need to work in part­ner­ship with the com­mu­nity and or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Neigh­bour­hood Watch. If the po­lice can­not be there, then ci­ti­zens’ groups will have to pro­vide them with ad­di­tional sets of eyes and ears; the coun­cil will have to act as a sup­port­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion, and pro­vide what­ever aid it can to re­duce crime, whether by in­vest­ing in more CCTV cam­eras, or creat­ing fa­cil­i­ties so that bored young peo­ple are less tempted into an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour. At the very least, there should be lead­er­ship which faces the is­sue headon and doesn’t let go, rather than hope it will dis­si­pate on its own, or worse, just pass on the blame.

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