No one should fault the hard-work and dedication of our police officers, they on a daily basis put themselves in jeopardy to try to keep us safe from harm. Yet, while we applaud the efforts of individual officers, we must confront the clear reality that Sussex Police are no longer able to deal with the pressures they’re facing.
Over the last year, time-and time-again residents have complained to me about crimes going uninvestigated, drug dealing appears to have spread across residential areas and the stabbings we’ve seen over recent months go well beyond any level of violence I can remember in Crawley’s past.
This is not the fault of our local police, it’s the logical result of decisions taken both in Government and by our Police Commissioner, which have left the police without the resources they require to deliver the service Crawley needs. To be silent about the crisis in policing we’re now experiencing is not being loyal to the service, it’s leaving it to the hyenas.
No matter how much you invest in technology, effective policing requires police officers. Yet, during my four years as either a full or substitute member of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel, the body responsible for scrutinising the work of the Police Commissioner, our calls to preserve neighbourhood policing went ignored year-on-year. While cuts from Government did necessitate some reduction in neighbourhood policing, the cuts to Sussex Police went millions of pounds beyond these national constraints, simply put: they were a choice.
At first this meant that the police would no longer deal with things which weren’t exclusively police work, then anti-social behaviour issues fell by the way, next low-level crime and now we find them unable to deal with the town’s growing problems with drugs and violence.
At last the Commissioner appears to be waking up and, following a change in national policy, is reversing some of the cuts, but recruiting and training officers doesn’t just happen overnight and in the meantime, I simply do not have confidence that the police will get a grip on the problems Crawley is now facing.