By Chris Cornell / Justice / / 0 Comments

Social media has been raging recently with crime stories in Whitstable. Local Conservative councillors have responded by unfairly criticising serving officers and describing them as no better than cardboard policemen.

Instead of complaining, Labour candidate for Gorrell, Chris Cornell, has written to the Chief Constable Alan Pughsley asking him to assign a new Town Constable to Whitstable as part of the roll out of 90 new front line officers paid for by the recent increase in our council tax. Read his letter below.

Dear Chief Inspector

I, like many residents of Whitstable, welcomed the recent decision by the Police & Crime Panel on the 7th February to provide additional funding to local policing decisions in the context of substantial under investment in the last few years. Whitstable lost its High Street Police Station in September 2012 and, since this time, fear of crime or anti-social behaviour has notably increased, particularly online.

In the twelve months leading up to the closure of our police station, 1,947 crimes were committed in our area. Last year over the same period we recorded 2,910. That’s a staggering 49% increase and substantially above the rate of increase across the county during this period (11%).

Whilst we understand that crime across the whole county is increasing and resources remain tight, we believe a town of over 30,000 residents deserves a dedicated police resource, particularly when it has a higher per capita crime rate than nearby Herne Bay whose police station responds to 999 calls in our area.

As such I’m writing to formally request you consider our town for a new town centre Constable to increase the police presence and improve co-ordination of services across our town. With additional funding identified for 90 extra community police officers, a new town centre Constable for Whitstable is affordable and would go a long way to providing a ‘visible reassurance’ to visitors and residents of our town.

It is clear from Met Commissioner Dick’s recent comments that police numbers have a direct impact on the amount of crime, particularly violent crime. We believe a new town centre Constable could compliment the excellent work of local PCSOs and prove an additional resource to tackle shoplifting from repeat offenders, the rise in threatening or intimidating behaviour, particularly during school holidays, as well as anti-social behaviour on our beach at night. The number of licensed premises in our town is increasing whilst volunteer ‘‘street pastors’ are the only roaming presence in our town on busy nights out.

I would appreciate a response to my letter.

Yours truly,

Chris Cornell

 

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By Bernadette Fisher / Justice / / 0 Comments

I don’t agree with Cllrs Clark and Spooner that PCSOs are ‘as much use as cardboard cut-outs’.

Concerns around crime and anti-social behaviour are often raised with me by residents in my role as a district councillor at Canterbury City Council.  Where I differ from Ashley and Colin is that I think the problem lies with the chronic lack of resources, not just in the police but also in all other local support services.  Austerity is really evident to me as I try to help local people cope with their daily lives in our community.

Our local PCSOs are deeply embedded in Whitstable and very aware of what is going on.  They have helped me to deal with the most acute problems caused by neighbours, of all ages, who are inconsiderate.  They have intervened, on a sustained basis in the face of great difficulty, to steer vulnerable young people away from local gangs and into more productive ways of behaving.  They have signposted where older people who find it hard to cope with isolation and loneliness can get support.  I know this because I have worked with them on individual cases.  I have also met with them, with members of our MP Rosie Duffield’s team, and enabled discussion about their work with concerned residents.  You’ll no doubt appreciate that this kind of long-term, preventative work does not make it into the local press, nor should it, but I hope you can appreciate that it does make a difference.

Having said that, whether you call it old-fashioned policing or ‘an overt high-visibility community presence’ we do need more ‘Bobbies on the beat’ in this town as in all parts of the district and country as a whole.  The loss of this visible presence means that there are not enough living reminders that we need to behave ourselves in public, and in private, so that our community can be welcoming and stay safe.  After all, as with most crime or anti-social behaviour, the victim is very likely to be close to home.

For this reason I am part of a local campaign for the reintroduction of town-centre constables in Whitstable which will be launched soon.  These constables would be part of the community policing team, working alongside PCSOs and with a close knowledge of the community. I know that local people are reluctant to criminalise the behaviour of those they probably know or know of.  They have said to me that they think the solution to anti-social behaviour amongst the young must lie with providing support and guidance so they can help themselves become successful citizens.

With this in mind, Whitstable people are forming residents’ associations or neighbourhood-watch schemes so that our streets and other public spaces are safe and attractive places for all of us, old and young, to meet and chat.  Local police and PCSOs are very supportive of this and encourage them just as they encourage people to report any possible criminal activity they witness via 101 or, in an emergency, 999.

PCSOs are just one hard-pressed community service and they are often the last remaining safety net as individuals and families spiral out of control.  I would encourage local people to engage with and support them.Personally, I’d like to offer them my sincere gratitude.

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