Monday, June 9, 2008

Policing Priorities for Coleridge

In many respects the East Area Committee last week was as flawed as predicted. Despite publicity from the police and Council, there were only about 15 members of the public in attendance from around 25,000 residents in the relevant area. Members of the public were outnumbered by the 13 Councillors, 3 police officers, and several Council Officers. Several Councillors, including myself, refused to take part in the planning applications part of the meeting, which started at the late hour of 10pm. Continuing these meetings in their present form at great expense is another example of the way 'politicians are just shockingly casual about public money and how it's spent.' - they urgently need to be either scrapped or reconstituted.

An area of interest at these meetings however is reports from the neighbourhood policing team, and the setting of local policing priorities. I would like to see all the local police priorities and performance under the direct control of locally elected people - as David Cameron has promised:

"[local politicians] would be empowered to set strategic objectives for the police and ensure that those objectives are met, with the ultimate sanction of being able to hire and fire the Chief Constable. The essential principle is that voters should have a direct relationship with the person or body who appoints the Chief Constable, matched by a direct and transparent funding arrangement so that they can judge the effectiveness of the policing they're paying for,"

I am still slightly unclear as to the extent that Area Committees are able to direct police resources to the key priorities of local residents. Four priorities were agreed, namely tackling:

Streetlife Anti-social behaviour across the Neighbourhood
Drug Dealing in the Barnwell area
Underage drinking on green spaces across the Neighbourhood
Anti-social behaviour in Thorpe Way estate

I agree with all these, but my big concern is that by setting priorities we are also setting by ommission areas where the police are now free to ignore local concerns.

A huge issue in the ward is speeding cars, rat-running along roads such as Coleridge Road, Birdwood Road and to avoid lights, along Lichfield Rd and Suez/Hobart. The occasional motorist, usually living locally, is prepared to speed at up to 70 miles an hour along some of these roads. There was a serious road accident on Birdwood Road in May that resulted in injury to one occupant, and several vehicles being written off - with a local resident's livelihood put at risk. And tragically a similar situation in Abbey ward last week resulted in serious injuries to a young person.

Having sought assurances that the police would still devote some resources to the problem of speeding, I remain unconvinced they are prepared to stage even occasional speed checks, e.g. with advice issued to the unthinking motorists without making speeding a local priority, so I proposed this should be added as a priority. The chair only permitted this if I first voted against the current proposal, which i did - and this shouldn't be misrepresented as a vote against the priorities agreed. Sadly I only had support from one other Councillor - both our Coleridge Labour City Councillors rejected my plea to add speeding as a priority. Going forwards I will be looking at ways local residents can start taking ownership of this problem - for example, in other areas have piloted schemes where residents monitor speeds and report frequent offenders to the police, but it remains a significant concern.

But to reiterate, I do fully support the focus on anti-social behaviour, particularly problems with underage drinking. I met with the local Police Community Support Officers on friday, and am looking in to ways that we can ensure all local problems with anti-social behaviour are recorded, so we can have a zero tolerance approach to the problems caused.

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