By Rosie Duffield MP
The attack on Daniel Ezzedine earlier this month was a tragic shock for those of us who have lived in this city for some time and know it as a caring and diverse place to live. Yet, since that incident, many people have stepped forward and spoken about similar experiences. A few days ago, I visited Daniel and his family in hospital and was shocked to see for myself the extent of his injuries and the long journey to recovery he faces.
Though Canterbury is still one of the safest places to live – indeed the Complete University Guide have ranked it the number 10 safest university town – we have seen a rise in crime across the country. It seems obvious that if you cut police numbers and the associated joined-up services, crime will naturally rise. Unfortunately, the government still haven’t arrived at that logic. The Children’s Society recently published a report on the exploitation of children for the distribution of drugs along county lines. The report laid bare the extent to which young people are being affected. Children as young as seven are being recruited to sell drugs and the data shows that more children are being arrested for intent to supply Class A drugs than for possession of them.
In Canterbury, the police, schools and social services all know that the redrawing of county lines is something which affects the city. However, in general, we have seen a rise in criminal activity, from violent crime to antisocial behaviour. The period of May 2018 to June 2019, saw over 2000 incidents of violent crime, with a particular spike over the summer months. As the government continues to preach law and order, they preside over instability and chaos. Our communities are facing a real threat which could be solved by the reintroduction of neighbourhood policing, investment into youth services and by taking preventative steps to end poverty, which is so often a root cause of crime.
On the ground, agencies have been cut to the bone, leaving them struggling to deal with the impacts of increased crime. In January, the Director of the Violence and Vulnerability Network told the Home Affairs Select Committee that in many areas the localities are struggling to deal with the increased demand produced because of county lines. Why is the government therefore not investing more money into the local governments, education authorities and social services affected? Why hasn’t the Home Office created a strategy on how to deal with this since 2017?
As my colleague Louise Haigh, the Shadow Minister for Policing, has stated, it is the ‘toxic combination of cuts, carelessness and incompetence’. This needs to end – people expect to live in safety and they have every right to.