I spent this morning at one of those "partnership" meetings that we local councillors attend. This was about crime attended by local police and their bigwigs, the senior firemen, probation service, health service. Lots of council officers, a few councillors. I do believe that everyone there, including the police, wants to make life safer.
But - here are the shackles
From "this summer" under a new white paper these partnerships are to be given more "Scope" - we must look at crime and antisocial behaviour and substance misuse and behaviour that adversely affects the environment???.....
However - funding has been cut... last year this partnership had a small pool of money that was given to real community projects. They made a difference; fitting door chains on the homes of the elderly, getting disenchanted youths do work experience as firemen, buying a few cctv cameras, a cop car, a police bike and a fire alarm for the farmers that constantly find their stacks on fire. This year there will be effectively no funding for these projects.
The government has a new approach the "Community Call for Action" which sounds great - from April any community can call for us to do action... but there is no guidance and no cash promised so how does one answer the call?
So instead the partnership monitors the statistics as required by the Home Office. "We're a low crime area" I'm told. "We have more PCSOs" I'm told.
How do I explain that to the families of the 21 people who have needlessly sacrificed their lives on my local road. Local people just want a few cop cars out there getting people to slow down. Death on the road is not a crime statistic. PCSOs can't give you a speeding ticket.
How do I explain it to the parent at school whose kid was nearly run over this week? That doesn't appear in the crime stats either.
How do I explain it to my fellow councillors who are noticing a rise in kids causing arson and fearing a hot, dry, tinderbox of a summer.
How do I explain it to the farmer who was robbed. The burglar was not the brightest button. He took what he wanted and left the remainder down the road but on part of the same farm! Whilst dumping it he left some papers including his name and address. What more evidence does one need. That was last August. The police finally went to arrest him this week (May). He was out.
I am guilty. I made this meeting last longer that it would have done ... but I'm simply not prepared to sit there and only listen to the "home office" questions and not the community's concerns.