My view’s changed on beating drugs menace

No Caption ABCDE
No Caption ABCDE

Criminologists might deduce otherwise, but my unscientific analysis of these pages strongly suggests there are two prime categories of crime in and around Newmarket - they concern drugs and theft, with violent attacks as a possible third. An elderly lady’s handbag snatched in broad daylight, another woman hobbling on crutches attacked and robbed by night in a public place are two almost random cases from last week’s Journal. Nor are they rare. Car break-ins are commonplace. It would be rash to assume all such cases were related to an urgent need to feed a drug habit but, put it this way, I for one would not be surprised if most were. Such incidents are numerous and frequent, as are prosecutions related to the production, trafficking or use of illicit drugs. The police can scarcely be criticised for failing to rise to this challenge but they must sometimes feel they are in danger of being overwhelmed by the sheer multiplicity of incidents even though most are relatively minor affairs. But there is a greater danger than being overwhelmed. The real danger is that we, whom the police are supposed to serve, are beginning to accept this situation as normal; just the way things are. When so much time, money and brainpower is spent in the seemingly endless task of vainly trying to contain a chaotic situation, it is small wonder that a radically different approach is being advocated by a few thoughtful folk, including Tom Lloyd, the former Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire. That approach might involve easing the definitions of illegality in drugs so that the price would fall and thefts to pay for a fix would fall correspondingly. I used to reject this approach as far too dangerous. But my knee-jerk “no!” has changed to undecided.

What great showbiz stars have is that indefinable quality we call “presence”. They can command a stage just by standing there. Good looks have little to do with it. I was fascinated to read that jubilant staff at Juddmonte Farms excitedly report that Frankel’s first foal has “great presence.” What’s more, the bookies are quoting odds on the filly winning the 2000 Guineas here in 2017. But long before that I expect her to be presenting her own tv sports show and appearing in the New Year Honours List. Such is equine celebrity in the 21st century.

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust is running a clever campaign to explain itself to a grumpy and doubting public. Kids’ art contests, visits to the control room are all part of the push and it will be time well spent if it increases understanding. But I am sure they realise the only real way to make us love the service again is a timely response to every call and no more silly excuses about why they got lost.

Scarcely a day goes by when our region does not score highly in some national excellence statistics. In a single day last week, for example, we came top in a survey of healthy veg eaters although coming a mere fifth in a national survey of general health but still way ahead of everywhere north of the Wash. An almost ceaseless shower of statistics show how happy, how healthy, how busy and beautiful we all are. How bitter all this must be if you live in, say, Mildenhall, where ill-fortune or ill health has robbed you of work, warmth, comfort, mobility and even companionship. How galling to be repeatedly told how fortunate your neighbours are. Who’s interested in your statistics?

My prediction that the proposed academy status for Newmarket College would be this year’s big spat has had early confirmation from Labour’s South East Cambridgeshire candidate Huw Jones, who greets a High Court decision to block such a change for an Essex school. He sees it as a battle between standards and structures. Will it seem that way here? Watch this space.