During Cambridge’s East Area Committee on Thursday the 2nd of August 2012 councillors held the police to account for their performance over the previous couple of months and set new priorities.
I have written about three aspects of the policing section of the meeting separately:
- Tackling Problems Caused by Street Drinkers in East Cambridge
- Police Failure to Answer Phone Discussed at Cambridge East Area Committee
- Police Failure to Obtain CCTV Following Riverside Attack.
The agenda item started with members of the public raising matters of concern. A substantial contribution was made by David Cato, who lives on Riverside a rather plush block of flats (he mentioned his porter). Mr Cato brought photographs of the Riverside bridge, which he had annotated to show how drug deals were being carried out, with drugs being dropped from someone on the bridge to someone waiting below on the road. He suggested the location was being used due to its multiple escape routes, and the option to throw drugs into the river if a deal was interrupted by the police. In addition to Riverside bridge Mr Cato identified other areas on the surrounding streets as being locations for drug dealing, he brought an annotated map which he said he had provided to councillors.
Mr Cato said he had obtained video footage of drug deals in progress, which he had passed to the police, and had been used in court. I was encouraged to hear this had happened as too often the police fail to take action on the basis of video and photographic evidence from the public, even if the person who took it is prepared to stand up in court and attest to its accuracy.
Mr Cato requested councillors set a police priority for tackling the drug dealing which he routinely saw out of his windows and around the area of his flat.
Councillors agreed to adjust their existing priority, to specify Riverside and another location in Abbey, as one of the areas in which they wanted drug dealing to be targeted.
The priorities set remained as they had been:
- Alcohol and drug-related street ASB in the East, targeting known hot spots and focussing on education and enforcement to address licensed premises selling alcohol to the intoxicated.
- ASB mopeds in Coleridge.
- Vehicle crime, such as theft and vandalism, in East of City.
Combining drug supply and street drinking into one priority is not helpful. While there is some overlap, I don’t think it is significant and the actions required against the two priorities are in my view quite different. I have detailed my suggestions in relation to street drinking in my separate article.
In relation to mopeds, these are a serious problem across the city. We have children riding vehicles illegally on the roads, and often on footpaths causing a danger to themselves and others. I think they ought be dealt with under the Road Traffic Act, and be given sentences as I would if I drove or rode for example without the right licence, without insurance, or in a dangerous or careless manner, such as points on their licences (or licences to be). I think using anti-social behaviour laws is a soft touch. (More).
The only discussion on vehicle crime was that people might not report it, given police inaction and delays answering the non emergency number.
Police Statistics Not Useful
One thing I noted was that police Inspector Poppet said “police statistics are always misleading”. He then went on to say “our professional perception is…”; he was seeking to urge councillors not to try and set priorities based on the statistics he had provided them with; the main point he was making was the perfectly fair and reasonable one that the statistics showed simply numbers of crimes and not their severity. Two ways I’ve suggested for tackling this have been asking the police to record, and report on, the costs of crimes such as criminal damage, and to report to area committees on the injuries being caused associated both with crime, and road safety; I point I made at the South Area Committee in July 2012.
Non policing items
- The chair asked that copies of the list of actions taken be made public and included in the public, published, documents, for the next meeting. Area committee chairs keep requesting this, but officers ignore them.
- Green councillor Simon Sedgwick-Jell reported he had received an assurance from Cambridgeshire County Council that Riverside and River Lane will be gritted this winter.
- Cllr Johnston pushed for double yellow lines to stop parking on Riverside. There is to be consultation. My view is the issue is permanent parking of junk vehicles. I would suggest that really this is all that needs to be addressed; I would propose:
- Putting a 24 hour, or 48 hour, cap on parking – maybe allowing people to purchase residents parking permits to be exempt from this.
- Limiting the number of bays available to large vehicles.
- The committee agreed to spend £1,500 signing the Leper Chapel from Riverside. As the chapel is mostly closed I think permanent signage is silly. Better would be promoting events and open days with temporary signage, and on existing notice boards.
- Hanging baskets on Mill Road cost £7,500 per year to maintain. There are 65 baskets. As streetlights are replaced under the County Council’s PFI scheme they will be kept, and moved onto the new poles.
- Mr Rodgers of the Whitehill Close Neighbourhood Watch was present. He said he’d never heard of the East Area Committee before. I think its astonishing no one told him about it while he was setting up his organisation. He was lobbying for flower beds to be installed by the council outside his and his neighbour’s homes. Councillors were rightly concerned about ongoing costs of maintenance, they offered to plant spring bulbs in the grass as a low cost, low maintenance option, but Mr Rodgers interjected a number of times to demand the taxpayer provide flowers, in a flower bed. The suggestion was made that the council might put in a flower bed if an organisation such as Abbey Action was prepared to formally commit to maintaining it. The cost to the council of maintaining a flower bed was given as £2-3,000.
- Mr Cato made a number of contributions on behalf of the Riverside Residents Association. He asked for more openness from the council in relation to the parking proposals, and the riverside railings. On the railings it appears no work has yet been done (despite some being budgeted for with the recent new surfacing at the Midsummer Common end). Council officers said it was now possible the whole stretch of the railings could be refurbished, but the decisions were to be held off to after a proposed mooring review to be held in the Autumn, as the outcome of the review could result in modifications needing to be made to to the railings.
- Councillors approved a £1,600 notice board to be installed on Cannons Green at the junction of Lyndewode Road and Tenison Road. Ex Cllr Gawthrop, a representative of the residents association which had requested the board, objected to the cost, and said the council’s proposals were too grandiose. He expressed concern about the glass, and the locking mechanism, saying he just wanted a simple board. The city council officer said that there would be a catch, but not a lock, to start with, and only if required would a lock be fitted.
- The widening of a footpath on Paradise Square, Petersfield, was on the list, but councillors were advised that it could be funded out of a dedicated cycle ways fund. I’m not sure but I think this is the square in-front of Petersfield Mansions, on the opposite side of Mill Road to Parkside Pools.
- Resident Mr Green complained argued private cars should not be forced out of the city, and complained moves to promote cycling were antidemocratic as they favoured students. An underground network for the city was suggested in response by Cllr Smart.
- Without declaring her interest, Cllr Smart lobbied for the council to plant trees on her street (Ross Street, Romesy). The Silver Cell System, involving eight boxes, for tree roots to grow in was introduced by the officer.
- Antony Carpen, Puffles2010‘s bestest buddy, asked about councillors’ and the council’s use of social media. Carpen argued using online channels helped people follow what’s being done, and makes deliberations accessible to a wider population who can’t, or don’t want to, sit through meetings. He noted Cllrs Pogonowski and Owers have recently stopped tweeting. Cllr Owers looked highly irritated to be asked about his twitter absence and made no comment (A hash tag #WhereIsGeorgeOwers has emerged). Cllr Pogonowski, who as well as disappearing from Twitter has switched parties since being elected, and has moved out of the city, said he doesn’t have time to tweet. Overall the response to Mr Carpen’s question was hostile, this started before the question had even been taken, with the chair questioning its relevance to the committee; though this was in part due to how the note Mr Carpen had written saying he wished to contribute had been written. Labour’s Cllr Benstead responded in a robust fashion asserting that the fact he doesn’t tweet or blog doesn’t make him lazy or a bad councillor. Cllr Pogonowski noted the council might be launching its own blog platform for councillors.