Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Trip to Parkside Police Station

Fortunately my trip wasn’t in handcuffs, with transport provided. I went to visit Simon Cross, the Sergeant in charge of policing in Coleridge, to find out about anti-social behaviour and other crime issues in Coleridge Ward, and what support the police need from our Councillors.

A key issue is the Cambridge Leisure Park site. Following an objection from the police, Wetherspoon’s was refused permission to open a huge pub under the Travelodge, despite initial approval from the Council. With the inclusion of the site in a designated ‘cumulative impact zone’, it will now be very difficult for another pub to be opened and the premises are still vacant. Personally I have some concerns about this decision – I expect the police to hold the few troublemakers responsible for their actions, and not penalise those who do act responsibly (whether it is as trivial as stopping a new pub, or as serious as forcing innocent people to carry ID cards or hand over their DNA to the state, but I digress…)

As is often the case, the issue turns out to be quite complex. The development isn’t just a design eyesore, it has appalling transport integration (no footbridge to the station, no taxi ranks on site, lack of secure bike parking, a car park with a reputation of being expensive etc), so late night revellers are left milling around on the harsh stone concourse after a night out. In neighbouring new developments, student digs are next door to posh yuppie flats. Put this all together, and its no wonder trouble happens. I shudder to think how the Council let this through planning! We must get transport right, not just on the Leisure site, but on all new developments such as the Station Redevelopment and East Cambridge. The police are clearly worried about a pub potentially encouraging antisocial drinking and throwing out punters at the same time as a nightclub, whilst simultaneously trying to police the City Centre – the solutions to this problem are clearly going to require a whole set of people working together, not least to educate young people, foster social responsibility from and early age and stop the troublesome few giving all young people a bad name.

The other anti-social problem mentioned was young people from local schools drinking on Coleridge Rec. Hopefully police action has already made a difference on this issue, but there remains a lack of youth facilities in the ward.

I raised some other policing issues that have been mentioned on the doorstep – like speeding cars on Coleridge Road. It was disillusioning to get a flavour of just how much the Government’s target agenda and rules are limiting the scope of the police to respond to issues like this. If something isn’t a designated priority or pet project, it is very difficult to find resources. It would help if the Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) who are increasing visible presence on the streets were able to issue tickets for minor offences, like cyclists without lights. Speaking of cycling - it turns out we are both keen cyclists, and agreed that more (secure) cycle parking would definitely help in the ward!

Finally I asked how local residents could help the police to stop crime and anti-social behaviour.

The e-cops scheme (sign up at https://www.cambs-police.co.uk/myneighbourhood/ecops/) allows the police to stay in touch about any issues affecting local residents, and helps communication between residents and the police.

There will also be more efforts to encourage neighbourhood watch schemes, lead by the local PCSOs. Residents are encourage to be in touch if they are interested in helping.

Our Community police officers for Coleridge can be contacted as follows:Michael.stribling@cambs.police.uk – Police Community Support Officer
Debbie.pearl@cambs.police.uk – Neighbourhood Policing Constable
Simon.cross@cambs.police.uk – Neighbourhood Policing Sergeant

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