Newmarket residents, business owners, and councillors join together to tell Suffolk Police: "We want more officers on the street"
Newmarket residents, business owners and councillors have joined to together to send their strongest message yet to Suffolk Police: “We want more officers on the street.”
And at the heart of their concerns is an upsurge in street crime in the centre of the town perpetrated by a group of youths described by a town hotel owner as ‘feral’.
Following last week’s Journal report in which Graham Philpot, manager of the Newmarket Business Improvement District, described the crime wave as an ‘outbreak of lawlessness’, Acting Inspector Steve Duncan attended a meeting of Newmarket Town Council on Monday to answer questions and hear the concerns of councillors, residents and business owners, many of whom felt the force was not doing enough.
And while in Newmarket, Acting Insp Duncan got a taste of the behaviour which has plagued the town for weeks when, after he had left the meeting, he and other officers responded to a disturbance caused by a group of youths close to Hughes electrical shop.
It resulted in officers carrying out a stop-and-search and arresting a 15-year-old youth on suspicion of possession of cannabis.
He was later taken home by officers and de-arrested but was due to be interviewed by police the following day in connection with the incident.
The incident was nothing new for residents and business owners who say that over the past few weeks they have had to put up with an increasing amount of anti-social and often criminal behaviour.
Paul Brodel, owner of Kings restaurant and hotel just off the High Street, who reported a serious assault on one of his guests in town for evening racing on Friday, August 9, claimed he had been told by a police force employee: “If you have trouble don’t call us.”
He told the meeting how youths had been involved in the assault on the customer which, he said, resulted in a serious head injury which when scanned in hospital had revealed a swelling on the brain.
He also described how shocked he and his staff were when they witnessed how an officer attending an incident the following day had been insulted by same gang.
“As soon as he touched the collar of one of these youths he started screaming and all the others got out their phones. The language they used was terrible.
“These youths are feral and they are taking control of the streets. Within an hour of one girl being arrested she was back on the street with a pizza in her hand.”
And appealing for more police support, Mr Brodel said: “We want to build a community here that we are all proud of but we need to know that you will be here when we need you.”
And he added: “At the moment it feels like we are just not important enough. What we want is proactive police. We want you to be on the street so things like this don’t happen in the first place. “
Responding to Mr Brodel’s claim he had been told not to call police, Acting Insp Duncan said: “You do need to call us.” He said police had responded to the call involving the racegoer assault but were told the victim had already been taken to hospital.
“When we did speak to him he did not want to engage with us,” said Acting Insp Duncan.
“I have to admit we are firefighting but we are working to increase our proactivity,” he said.
When town mayor Cllr Rachel Hood said police response was ‘not what we would expect’, Acting Insp Duncan admitted that with the resources the force had it had to prioritise what incidents officers attended. Where there was a threat to life the response was immediate other incidents could take a week to deal with.
“Our concern is the lack of police presence on our streets and the town council and our residents want to make you aware of that and we need something positive to come out of this meeting,” said Cllr Hood, who, when she asked whether the town-council funded police officer could not be more involved in dealing with the disturbances, was told she could not as she was a civilian and could not work in that area.
Deputy mayor Cllr James Lay said: “We have paid £33,000 for a PCSO but she is always in the wrong place. We need to see her in the High Street. We want her where we have problems. If we were askedto spend that money again we wouldn’t.”
Cllr Mick Jefferys said: “We want the police to be visible because that prevents crime and it was a very short-sighted policy to reduce the number of police officers. If individuals perceive they can get away with crime then crime escalates.
“People’s perception of the rule of law, which is one of the foundations of our country, is fraying at the edges and fast disappearing.”
And Cllr Kevin Yarrow said: “It is increasingly a thin blue line.”
“It has been a bad few days for the town,” said Cllr Hood. “We need to see police on the street and our residents need to know that if they call the police someone will turn up. There is a lack of confidence and real concerns that revolve partly around this band of young people who appear to be out of control.”
The council also asked why Newmarket no longer had a ‘proper’police station with the main Forest Heath police base beingin Mildenhall, despite Acting Insp Duncan telling the meeting Newmarket was the area of most demand.
“Whathappened last week is horrible for the town and has pricked our ears up,” said Acting Insp Duncan.
More by this authorAlison Hayes