“Kids are not safe” - Lowestoft residents’ fears after rise in severe violent crime

Lowestoft Police Station. Picture: Conor Matchett

Lowestoft Police Station. Picture: Conor Matchett - Credit: Archant

After an upturn in severe violent crime in Lowestoft and years of police cuts, Conor Matchett learned how local people are fearing the town is changing for the worst.

Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

'It is getting too scary to let the children out of our sight.'

That's the view of Mrs Burgess, 61, and a resident on Notley Road in Lowestoft for 24 years who regularly looks after her five grandchildren, aged 13, 11, 7, and 1 at her home.

Her house backs onto the scene of one of what is becoming commonplace in the town - severe violent crime.

On Sunday, July 22, a boy aged 16 was left 'very shaken' after being told he would be stabbed if he didn't hand over his bike to two men in their 20s.

Superindendent Sarsfield Donohue from Suffolk Police. Picture: Suffolk Constabulary

Superindendent Sarsfield Donohue from Suffolk Police. Picture: Suffolk Constabulary - Credit: Archant

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'Kids are not safe' said Mrs Burgess. 'It is getting really, really bad. It is really scary the things that you hear.

'My daughter has only just started letting her daughter go out. She won't let them go up to the shop unless there is three of them.

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She added: 'In my day you could leave your money for the milkman on the doorstep. But you are not safe anymore. You never had to worry.

'I now rarely see a policeman on the beat and they are cutting down on PCSOs. We have to look after each other, most of us do, we all look out for each other round here.'

Mrs Burgess' views are not uncommon, with fears surrounding cuts to front-line policing the main blame for the recent spate of violent crime.

Another woman, visiting her mother on Notley Road, said: 'What can you do? There is not enough police about and there is not enough punishment for what people do.'

Police budgets have fallen by around 20pc nationally since 2010, while recorded violent crime and sexual offences have more than doubled in the last five years.

Figures released last week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that recorded crime in Suffolk is also on the increase, with a total of 53,116 recorded crimes over a 12 month period in the year ending 2018 - a rise of 15pc.

Despite these challenges, police say they are tackling concerns raised by residents, with a reorganisation in policing equating to two extra sergeants and 19 more police officers in the Lowestoft and Beccles area.

However the move will see the loss of half of Suffolk's PCSOs and was described by union UNISON as 'reckless'.

County policing commander for the eastern area, Superintendent Sarsfield Donohue, said: 'The changing nature of crime and criminality, its complexity in many instances and the need to prioritise our resources to address those incidents posing the greatest levels of threat and risk of harm, particularly among the most vulnerable, has meant Suffolk Police needs to be as flexible, efficient and effective as possible.

'However, the public have expressed a desire to see as many local officers as possible, back on the streets within their communities.'

He added: 'The proposed changes, which come into effect from October, are a positive step forwards in terms of increasing the constabulary's visibility among the local communities, whilst continuing to recognise and respond to the ever increasing demands placed upon the force.'

Tim Passmore, police and crime commissioner for Suffolk, highlighted the discrepancy between Norfolk and Suffolk's funding from the Home Office and apologised for the lack of front line policing despite a council tax rise last year.

Mr Passmore said Suffolk is given £5 less per head compared to Norfolk, equal to £3.5m in funding which he said could lead to an increase of eight to 10 officers in Lowestoft and 80 across Suffolk.

He said: 'One of the difficulties we have got in policing is that other things come up. For example the pension equalisation that came in last year, unfortunately we didn't get any extra funding for that.

'People don't see anything on the front line and what do you have to show for it? Frankly we are just standing still and I am very, very sorry about that.

'I am an elected person and I am being a complete pain in the backside to the government about it. The Home Office needs to recognise that crime in Suffolk is just as important here as it is in central London.'

He said: 'It [the reorganisation] will mean more visibility, boots on the ground, query responses, and more proactive policing, being on the front foot, arresting people rather than waiting for something to go wrong.'

Violent crime in Lowestoft

On the same day as the robbery near Notley Road, a woman was allegedly threatened at knife-point by two men near the Royal Dragon takeaway on St Peter's Street. Two men have since been charged.

Earlier this month, an 18 year old boy was forced to strip at knifepoint, before two girls allegedly ran away with his clothes. A 15 year old girl was arrested and released on bail pending further enquiries.

That followed the alleged murder of Scotty Tarrant on July 7, for which Steven Butcher will stand trial at Ipswich Crown Court in January 2019.

Other crimes in Lowestoft recently have included:

• A 17 year old boy was punched in face by a man attempting to steal his scooter

• A 15 year old boy was arrested on suspicion of a serious sexual assault which happened in the victim's own home

• Knife and baseball bat wielding men damaged the door of a property on Raglan Street.

Resident reaction

Residents have called for more police on our streets and called on parents and schools to do more to instil discipline in children.

On the Lowestoft Journal Facebook page, Mickey Kent said: 'If you cut people's money, raise taxes and cut the police force it's a recipe for disaster.'

Rebeccah Giltrow said: 'Maybe if we had actual police patrolling the streets, we wouldn't have so many problems. PCSOs don't cut it. Bring back the police and actually punish those committing crimes rather than slapping them on the wrists.'

Jean Anthony added: 'It's all too late! There is no respect for the police or any authority whether it's in the home or school.

'When we went soft on discipline, standards and respect we are now paying the price. Life today is miserable on so many levels. It starts in the home good parenting skills are essential.'

Daniel Lister said: 'No need to look we all know what it is. Lack of police and those that are still around are over worked.'

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