Bolstering police’s thin blue line - MP for Peterborough Fiona Onasanya

Fiona Onasanya column
Fiona Onasanya column
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Sometimes anecdotes and statistics reinforce each other.

I often hear from constituents that they are worried about crime; recently published statistics have stated that crime rose in Cambridgeshire by 22 percent since 2016.

We shouldn’t blame the police for this increase: the old saying “you get what you pay for” applies. Per person spending on law enforcement in Cambridgeshire is in 33rd out of 39 places. If we aren’t willing to give the police the necessary funds, how can they possibly cope?

Crime is cumulative; as the experience of large cities like New York shows, if smaller crimes are not dealt with rigorously, an atmosphere of permissiveness is created that invites greater law breaking.

Yet, in the pursuit of austerity measures, the government has abrogated a primary responsibility, namely to protect the people whom it is supposed to serve. Whatever savings they think they are making in terms of government budgets, it is costly for individuals and businesses to put the pieces back together after an incident.

When I look at the police.uk website to get an overall view of the types of crime affecting Peterborough, I see anti-social behaviour is a common problem. I’m also alarmed by the incidences of violent crime. Crimes against property are far too numerous.

I sometimes get laments from constituents that it was never like this in previous years, when the police were more visible.

Perhaps like many memories, there is an element of nostalgia involved, but it is certainly true that the police were less a service rushing to a particular incident and more a consistent part of the community.

This is another point at which anecdote and fact reinforce each other: New York City became one of the safest cities in the United States precisely because it ensured that police were out on the beat.

However, it is the other word that emerges from these stories that also catches my attention, community: there may have been a greater sense that we were not all islands unto ourselves, rather, we all bore responsibility, with the help of the police, to ensure that our neighbourhoods were safe. I do not believe that we will see a change in policy from the present government. Strong communities bolstered by a pervasive police presence doesn’t appear to be on their list of priorities, buffeted as they are by Brexit, the after effects of the Windrush scandal, and deficit targets that seem to spiral ever outward to a future date.

When we do finally have a government that will look at this issue seriously, I fear whatever has been saved today, will have to be spent at a greater order of magnitude tomorrow.