Article for West Suffolk Mercury

Thursday, 1 May, 2003

Here in Suffolk we don't have the same crime problems as Moss Side, Hackney or central Birmingham. But surprising new statistics that I have unearthed show a big rise in violent crime in our county. We do live in a lovely county but that must not make us complacent.

More bobbies on the beat is a frequent demand in my postbag. Such community policing must be at the heart of Suffolk Constabulary's work.

The number of robberies in Bury St Edmunds has doubled since 2000 and the number of incidents of violent crime have increased in the town by nearly 50%. Police numbers in Bury St Edmunds are too low and the number of special constables in Suffolk has fallen from over 300 in April 2002 to 267 in last year.

All of Suffolk's officers provide a professional service but there are not enough of them and they are getting submerged in needless paperwork and red tape. They must be freed from endless form filling and given better funding and resources to help them in their work.

The owner of a local convenience store told me last week that she collared a youngster stealing bottles of cider in her shop. The policeman came but wouldn't take the boy to the station. He said the theft wasn't serious enough to justify all the hours of paperwork that he'd have to do! The system is letting our police officers down. It just isn't right.

Stupid red tape happily does not affect the excellent street wardens in Bury St Edmunds in the same way. Their visible presence in the town centre has certainly helped to reduce the fear of crime. They have had some impact on anti-social behaviour and crimes that affect local communities, such as vandalism and youth nuisance.

To supplement our rural bobbies I would like to see warden foot patrols being extended to our villages. Many constituents complain that they don't see a police officer on foot in their village. If greater resources were made available for police officer and warden recruitment, I firmly believe there would be a cut in the number of burglaries.

Our bobbies in rural areas have huge areas to patrol with not enough support. There is evidence that, as a result, criminals are targeting rural areas where police resources are insufficient. Just look at the spate of daylight raids on Suffolk Post Offices by London criminals over the last year!

The system is obviously letting down our bobbies and this can't be right. The threat and fear of crime in Suffolk means we are seeing a direct reduction in people's quality of life. This must be nipped in the bud, and soon.