Don’t let ‘doughnut’ ring get larger

Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph -
Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph -
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I genuinely welcome the new head of Peterborough police Melanie Dales to her post. She’s certainly got one heck of a job on her hands. It’s fair to say her predecessor and me didn’t always see eye to eye – especially regarding his (in my humble opinion) wet and politically correct attitude to law breaking by travellers. Still, I don’t blame him alone – I had a pusillanimous and vacuous reply this week on the same subject from our “local” Police and Crime Commissioner.

Some months ago, I made reference in my PT column to the “doughnut” effect, whereby (generally) crime and anti-social behaviour had reduced in the city centre area and in the city’s suburbs or villages but were being displaced to a doughnut “ring” between suburbs and centre, where, coincidentally, we see more Houses in Multiple Occupation, slum landlords, licensed premises and itinerant and temporary populations without much long term affinity with Peterborough. Places like Park ward, Eastgate, Millfield and Eastfield. One only has to stroll through Stanley Rec to see it now has – more often than not - become a haven for Eastern European vagrants and street drinkers.

It’s depressing and makes many people angry – people who pay their taxes like other folk out in the villages and suburbs.

The police will tell you that they are alive to these issues – but they really aren’t. They tell you the focus on “vulnerable people” (whoever they are?) because their budgets have been cut (even though Cambridgeshire Constabulary has reserves of £25 million in the bank) and that they need to “prioritise” a reactive approach to crime. Really?

This week, a modern morality tale brought the human side of this issue to my attention. A couple I know, a nice family with kids, she who works in public services and he in the private sector, decent, hard-working, community-minded, who have lived not far from me for 20 years – they’ve had enough and put their house on the market and are moving out of the city centre. Why? They’ve grown tired of putting up with casual crime and misdemeanours (as victims and onlookers) and the ominous threat of criminality in what was a quiet and peaceful residential area until just a few years ago. Now – I saw it myself just a few weeks ago – the highlight was a man defecating in the street! Nice.

The word they use is “abandoned”. By the authorities and the police in particular.

Despite providing police officers with details of drug dealers, anti-social behaviour, video evidence, addresses, times, they have, in desperation and frustration, just given up – believing that the police will fail to properly deal with the matter and don’t actually care that much – even about the delivery driver who stopped off to 
buy his drugs outside their door!

My constituents feel angry and yes abandoned but they will soon be gone and I don’t blame them.

Until and unless we have proper leadership not just from the police but the City Council and other agencies and a real commitment to tackle all these social ills and a tough approach to crime, then we will see the doughnut ring getting bigger and too many parts of my constituency becoming a dreadful slum.

I for one, as a local resident and Member of Parliament, won’t let it happen but I need your help, too.