1) What issues in crime and policing does Great Yarmouth (town and borough) face that are unique to the area?
According to recent crime figures for Great Yarmouth, the most prevalent crimes are anti-social behaviour (ASB) and violent ones. In 2013 for instance, the ASB rate in Great Yarmouth was above the national average . Similarly the number of violent and sexual crimes and the amount of of drug-related offences was well above the national average and thus more action needs to be taken to remedy these. However, it is also worth pointing out that these figures showed that vehicle crime and burglary rates were low in the town and borough.
As a result the priorities, in my opinion, for the local police should be to deal with anti-social behaviour and ensure that more is done to tackle sexual and violent crimes, most notably through education and working in schools. The Norfolk Constabulary should also look to tackle the drug gangs who sell narcotics in and around Yarmouth.
Furthermore, from speaking with local residents, specific certain areas across the borough also experience problems with the late night economy. For example there is often trouble at certain venues in Gorleston and in Great Yarmouth over the weekend – as you might expect in any large town/city with multiple clubs and bars – but local authorities working alongside the police undoubtedly could and should do more.
Anecdotally, the one problem that regularly comes up on the doorsteps is dangerous driving, particularly on the “Acle Straight” and the high level of accidents we read about seem to bear witness to this. Too often, we hear about incidents on the stretch, and when there is an accident it causes major problems and delays.
Finally, given the importance of tourism on the local economy in and around Great Yarmouth, it is essential that environmental crimes (even as low-level as littering) should be more closely examined, especially on the beaches and on the Broads.
2) As the second largest population centre in Norfolk after Norwich, what additional resources are required in Yarmouth to help with these problems?
As a larger area Yarmouth of course requires more funding, both to support a higher number of officers needed to respond to a higher number of crimes and to ensure that services in the area are able to meet the demands associated with the complexities of a relatively high-population area. It also needs to be recognised that the make-up of Great Yarmouth is quite varied – from the built-up urban areas in the Town of Great Yarmouth, to suburban areas like Hopton and Gorleston, and even rural areas like Martham and Fleggburgh. The crimes in the areas vary between neighbourhoods, and it’s important to ensure that the local force is equipped to deal with a variety of different situations. As a result, the local police should be prepared to deal with a variety of situations, from policing the late night economy zone to dealing with traffic violations and rural thefts.
However, if these issues, (in particular the violent crimes and thefts) are to be fully tackled, more needs to be done on the socio-economic level too, specifically to tackle the inequality levels, which are so often linked with higher rates of crime. Although this well beyond the remit of the Police and Crime Commissioner, it seems clear that more action must be taken to support the local economy and provide meaningful employment for all.
3) If you are elected, what will you do to make sure that there are more uniformed police officers on the streets of Great Yarmouth?
As you are probably aware, the police budget is very limited (thanks to the austerity measures implemented by the government) and as a result it is unlikely that police numbers will rise dramatically, regardless of who is elected, because it’s simply not possible without jeopardising the service by drawing away from other areas. However, there are measures that can be implemented to raise funds such as a late night levy, which I have been calling for, in particular in Norwich. This levy allows local areas to charge businesses that supply alcohol late into the night for the extra enforcement costs that the night-time economy generates for police and licensing authorities.
I would also seek to encourage community policing so that residents across Norfolk, from King’s Lynn to Great Yarmouth have a better understanding of who their police officers are. Coupled with this I would like to see residents being able to converse with their local neighbourhood teams and set priorities on the micro level, with the result that hopefully the Norfolk Police becomes that visible, reassuring presence in which we can all trust and rely.
4) What more needs to be done to tackle anti-social behaviour in the area?
Anti-social behaviour seems to largely be reported in the vicinity of clubs and other night-time recreational places. It’s important that the police work with the various stakeholders (local residents, elected councillors, night-time business and security personnel, etc.) to ensure that these offences are taken seriously and handled appropriately and with haste. Work also needs to be done to ensure that those working in night-time economies know when to stop serving customers and feel safe doing so. Safe drinking campaigns should continue, but they should not seek to “victim blame” as some past campaigns in Norfolk seem to have done.
I would also like to see local SNAPs/SNTs prioritised more, with a bigger emphasis on publication so that the public actually know that they exist and know how/when to attend. By increasing community communication, we may not only increase public perceptions and trust, but we can learn more about very localised crime issues that might otherwise go undetected. For example by talking to neighbourhood watch teams, the police might learn about anti-social behaviour completely unrelated to the night-life economy. It is for this reason and several others that I would like to see more neighbourhood watch schemes and community policing in place in Great Yarmouth and indeed across the whole of Norfolk.