Peterborough’s police chief insisted more bobbies on the beat would not reduce crime as he listened to residents’ concerns that they feel unsafe in the city centre.
Superintendent Andy Gipp said another 100 officers on the streets of Peterborough would not bring down crime as it would not tackle the root cause of society’s problems.
However, audience members at a public meeting told the city’s area commander that people are afraid to go into the city centre at night.
Supt Gipp told residents at St John the Baptist church that a greater focus needed to be given to supporting young people from troubled families rather than just locking them up, which he said “hasn’t worked anywhere in the world, ever.”
He stated: “Would you rather see another 100 officers on the streets of Peterborough in the honestly held belief that that would have a long term effect on society and the reduction of crime?
“I don’t believe that, and I’ve never believed that. If we keep repeating the conversation of putting more cops on the street because that will solve the ills of the world, we will keep repeating what we’ve done for 50, 60 years that hasn’t worked.”
But, one resident said: “I promote events in this church. I can get people here at lunch easily, but it’s very hard to get people here in the evening. We ran an event here two weeks ago. I went outside the church, it was only seven o’clock in the evening and I was nervous.”
City councillor Bella Saltmarsh said she was approached by three people asking for money. She said: “My friend and I feel unsafe now walking around in the city centre. There are people like us getting frightened to go out.”
City MP Fiona Onasanya, who was co-hosting the meeting, said: “Being homeless is not a criminal offence. No one sits around when they’re younger and says ‘when I’m older I want to be homeless.’” She added that the causes of crime needed to be tackled.
Councillor and former police officer John Fox said seeing officers made people feel safer and police cuts had to stop. He added that the city centre once had “four officers 24/7.”
Police forced to prioritise
Supt Gipp said he understood concerns about the city centre, but due to dwindling resources police had to prioritise. One resident said: “We still have to pay for a service we don’t get.” Supt Gipp replied: “But that service isn’t sitting around not doing anything. It’s actually being deployed to emergency jobs where people are getting physically assaulted at that time.”