If you are a victim of crime, there are no statistics that will persuade you as to the safety of the area where you live. However, overall our Folkestone and Hythe district has a crime rate below the average for Kent and is the fourth lowest of the County’s twelve local authority areas; lower as well than other East Kent districts like Dover and Thanet. However, more still needs to be done to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour in some hot spot areas of the district. In particular have met with the police and residents in Folkestone harbour, an area that attracts a lot of out of town visitors, to discuss what more can be done there. This includes not just on the street policing but taking enforcement action if necessary, against bars trading in breach of the terms of their licenses. I have fully supported as well, the decision of the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Scott, to increase the police precept which we pay as part of our council tax bills, to recruit up to 300 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) across the county.
Whilst on average our district performs better than most others in Kent in terms of overall levels of crime, according to the most recent statistics published by the police, it has one of the higher levels of drug related crime in the county. This is particularly significant when you consider that drugs play a part in other offences as well. Often incidents of violence against people, shoplifting and burglary are linked to drug taking. There has been an increasing focus on the role played by ‘County Line’ drugs operations which are run by London gangs, selling and distributing drugs in areas like Kent. These gangs exploit often vulnerable boys and young men, recruiting them to work for them, putting their lives at risk as well as leading them into criminality. This activity can also be traced back to gang violence and crime in London as well. Considerable resources are being committed to identify individuals involved in these County Line drugs gangs, both in London and in Kent. We need tougher enforcement against the gangs, but also more use of intelligence to identify those young men involved, and then turn them away from a life of crime. There is also a responsibility for the community here as well. People who buy drugs off the streets should consider that they are financially supporting criminal gangs that are putting lives as risk.
Over the last couple of months, I have taken up a considerable number of complaints on behalf of residents in New Romney about changes to the bus services through the town introduced by Stagecoach. I believe that these changes are unnecessary and have caused real hardship for local residents, particularly for those with poor mobility who relied on having a service on their doorstep. I have received responses from the company to a number of specific cases brought to me by constituents and I understand that they are reviewing the changes that they have introduced. I have asked to meet with Stagecoach as soon as possible with a view to see what needs to be done to reintroduce lost services to New Romney.