Last Friday I met with representatives from the resident’s associations covering central Folkestone, The Leas and The Bayle, to discuss policing in the town. They have raised concerns with me about street crimes and drug related offences in the town centre and harbour areas, in particular, and what more can be done to prevent them.
As always, our front line in the fight against crime are our police officers. I would like to add my thanks to our front-line patrol officers and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) for all of the work they do. Matthew Scott, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent has made front line policing one of his main priorities since his election. In the last two years we have seen the deployment of an additional 270 police officers on Kent's streets. His budget proposals for Kent police in the coming year includes the recruitment of an additional 180 officers. This will mean that by 2020, police numbers in Kent will be boosted by 450 in total, as well as protecting 300 PCSOs and increasing police support staff numbers by more than 100. This is all very welcome additional support.
We also need to look at the locations where crime most frequently occurs and what can be done about this. The Police allocate the greater part of their resources to the places where they are needed most, in order to try and prevent and detect crime. Town centre CCTV also plays a role in deterring criminal activity and helping catch people who commit offences. The regeneration of the old town and harbour areas of Folkestone is also helping to deter offenders. Previously quiet and dark places are becoming animated by new businesses and activity in the evenings. I believe that when the urban sports park at the junction of Tontine Street and Dover Road opens this will further help this process, by bringing more people to this part of the town. If you see anything suspicious or want to report a crime to the police, you can do this online at the Kent Police website or by calling 101 for non-emergency matters or 999 if you need immediate assistance.
A large part of the crime reported today is related to drugs. Many of the violent offences committed are linked to the dealing and supply of drugs, and even violence between gang members is related to drug dealing. That’s why I believe that taking firm action against known and persistent drug dealers is so important. Not only does their activity give the impression of general lawlessness, it is directly linked to drug supply chains often involving dangerous and violent gangs. We know from the phenomenon known as ‘County Lines’ that many of these dealers are linked to gangs in London, that bully and intimidate vulnerable young people to work couriering drugs to towns outside of the capital. We need to break this system through identifying the worst offenders and getting them off the streets. It is also important that we do more to try and divert young people away from the gangs that control this dealing.