My Labour Group colleagues and I perform regular “street surgeries” in order to uncover the issues facing our communities, writes Peterborough Labour Leader Shaz Nawaz.
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 head-on and doesn’t let go, rather than hope it will dissipate on its own, or worse, just pass on the blame.