there may be a criminal among Bexley’s councillors it seemed appropriate
to observe their Crime and Disorder Committee at work last night. A surprisingly
high proportion of the councillors I regard with the most suspicion are on that
Committee. Commander Stringer of Bexleyheath police and Chief Inspector Mark
Stockford, the Safer Neighbourhoods Manager, were also present and the Committee
was chaired in a relaxed but effective manner by councillor Alan Downing.
Among the facts that came to light were that the council’s 250 CCTV cameras had resulted in 500 arrests last year and that about 2,500 reports of anti-social behaviour had resulted in 13 Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs). Doesn’t seem very many to me and in fact the overall tenor of the meeting was that crime is low in Bexley. Commander Stringer said that unlike other London boroughs there was little or no “spike” in crime rates at school closing time and things were pretty good in the evenings when alcohol related crime might be expected to produce another statistical spike. There was an air of self-congratulatory praise about Bexley being a low crime borough with suggestions it was due to initiatives such as under-age test purchase for booze and knives etc. Had no one thought that Bexley residents may be a law-abiding lot who know how to behave themselves without much encouragement and shouldn’t be directly compared with Lambeth or Hackney or Newham?
£10,000 a year was said to be allocated to the test purchase programme. I’d like to know who drinks all that illicitly purchased alcohol.
Councillor James Hunt (East Wickham) made a plea to Commander Stringer that ‘on the spot fines’ be issued to parents delivering children to schools if they failed to immediately follow any request by a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO); I think his concern was parking. The Commander evidently thought that fining people left right and centre might be Bexley council’s preferred option but it may not be the best way, for he deftly side-stepped the question. Councillor Tarrant (East Wickham) amply demonstrated his small mind by asking that CCTV cameras should track fly posters - I thought he was going to say fly tippers but it was definitely Bill Posters he was after. So if you are intent on finding your lost cat, watch out. On the other hand if you are a knife carrying thug…
Councillor Sawyer (Northumberland Heath) showed himself to be above such trivia and was concerned that there were always likely to be ‘Youth Offenders’ who refused to respond to or cooperate with the plethora of help programmes available to them. What was being done to tackle them? Councillor Sawyer seemed to be slightly apologetic about his question, hoping he wouldn’t be labelled “a right-wing fruit cake” for asking it. I’m not sure he got a straight answer to his question but I imagine that any Bexley resident who suffers from yobbery will be reassured there is a right-wing fruit cake on hand who might be prepared get beyond the platitudes when the going gets tough.
Future crime prevention plans are said to be based on Bexley’s latest crime survey which was conducted on surveymonkey.com. If you’ve never heard of it you are not alone because only 367 people responded and who’s to say they were Bexley residents? Councillor Ball (Erith) was rightly worried that pressure groups could distort such a limited survey but Councillor Windle (Barnehurst) pointed out that it didn’t really matter. He was sufficiently astute to notice that the survey asked whether Violent Crime, Anti-Social Behaviour, Vehicle Crime, Criminal Damage or Residential Burglary should be the top priorities and the published conclusion was that Violent Crime, Anti-Social Behaviour and Property Crime should be the top priorities for attention - which covers everything anyway. What was the point of the survey?
As always when I leave one of these council meetings I ask myself what would be the effect on the borough if the meeting hadn’t taken place and as is too often the case the answer is “probably nothing”. Councillors quite obviously contact Sergeants in charge of Ward PCSO teams as and when required and the Committee Meeting appears to add little or nothing to that.