Peterborough city councillors have asked police to do more to tackle anti-social behaviour in the city centre, as a mid-year performance report from the SaferPeterborough Partnership showed increased crime in most areas.
Reporting to the council’s Adults & Communities Scrutiny Committee, Peterborough Chief Inspector Nick Church said: “The figures were disappointing, though there were some areas of improvement.”
Cllr John Fox wanted to know why the report showed no indication of how the police were tackling low level crime such as drug dealing. He said: “It is the blight of every neighbourhood, and the only thing I hear from my community when they talk about local crime.
“We’ve spent thousands of pounds improving the city centre, only to have it taken over by skateboarders clattering about the place. There are drunks everywhere, and you can smell marijuana all day long.
“The council have street wardens tackling some of the offences, and Kingdom officers do a good job, but why can’t they be used to stop those issues as well? The police are doing nothing about it, and the people of Peterborough don’t want to see their city centre like this.”
Chief Inspector Church told the meeting: “We are undertaking a lot of activity to tackle low level crime such as drug dealing and anti-social behaviour, and we will be presenting the council will an in-depth report on that in November.”
Rob Hill, Peterborough City Council assistant director for community safety, added: “The council have put two Public Space Protection Orders in place for the city centre and Millfield, and we want to extend these to Woodston and beyond.
“At the moment we are about to re-negotiate the contract with Kingdom, possibly expanding their activities to include some of the issues you raise. Their officers already have lots of powers, but can only be enforcing them when they are on the streets, and that is something we would like to consider extending”.
But Cllr Mohammed Jamil questioned Chief Inspector Church on the police’s ability to get through to the youths blamed for much of the crime being committed. He wanted to know what was being done to talk to them about crime, and said: “In the old days this would’ve been done by youth workers in their community, what are you doing to get them off the streets?”
Ch Insp Church said: “We’ve put independent teams of community officers in each ward of the city, working with local community and youth groups to talk with young people. Yes, there’s more we could do if we had the resources, but we simply don’t have enough people”.
Cllr Jamil added: “But the police are not recording the data that they do get from the public, and because funding is evidence based you’re missing out on that funding.”
Chief Inspector Church said: “Data about crimes is all collected on computer. We had a new computer system installed in April, and while the old data isn’t lost the tools to recover it and use it on the new system don’t appear to be working very well. The data is there, but we just can’t recover it yet.”
One of the issues discussed at the meeting was hate crime, and Cllr Shazia Bashir said: “The police are only talking to the men at the mosques about hate crime. Women in every ethnic group should also have a voice.”
Julia Cullum, domestic abuse & sexual violence manager, said: “The initiative for this came from the mosques. They realised that the police were having trouble reaching out to parts of the ethnic community, and the mosques wanted to do something to help not just Muslims, but all ethnic groups in the city.
“Cambridge has a women’s aid pilot project called ‘Ask me’. And we want to get community champions in Peterborough interested in starting something similar, bringing safer spaces for women who are the victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence.”
Robert Alexander, Local Democracy Reporting Service