Cambridgeshire Police Commissioner candidate warns of incipient privatisation

private_police10:24 Monday 1st February 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: We’re also talking anti-social behaviour. Many of you getting in touch today with your stories. We heard from John earlier. Les from Cambridge says “After nine months of stone-throwing against my window amongst other things my support worker organised mediation. Any way, I think we need to join up the thinking between unemployment, anti-social behaviour and immigration.” says Les from Cambridge. Obviously I haven’t seen any studies that do link those, but maybe there is something there says Les in Cambridge. But if anti-social behaviour is making your life a misery we’d like to hear from you this morning. And how do you think we should stop it? We heard about the Arbury Estate in Cambridge earlier, where residents say drug use and poor driving were causing problems. Well now a row has broken out in Peterborough about how the city there should tackle anti-social behaviour. Some councillors say they want council staff to be able to tackle anti-social behaviour, which includes aggressive begging. But others are concerned about the scheme and want it thrown out. One of them who wants it thrown out is Labour councillor Ed Murphy. Ed, morning.
ED MURPHY: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: What’s wrong with it, on the face of it, tackling anti-social behaviour?
ED MURPHY: Absolutely nothing wrong with tackling anti-social behavior. The Council already have powers to tackle anti-social behaviour, but they’ve been very poor in using those powers. What I’m concerned about is the new enforcement team will all in all be about enforcement, and they will cut the neighbourhood policing team from the police service and the PCSOs, and move them into the Council offices. And that will not deal with violent crime and anti-social behaviour in the neighbourhoods. They’ve already lost the police station for the PCSOs and police officers in Hampton, and it’s had bad consequences.
PAUL STAINTON: The Council will say no, this is an effort to crack down on things that have been reported about. It’s city-wide, not just in the city centre, and it will target the various areas that people have alerted them to.
ED MURPHY: Well in a way I hope that I’m wrong, but when we looked at what the Council were doing, first of all they didn’t consult properly. They pretended it was about the city centre and then they said it was about the whole city. What we’re looking at is using a computer to issue jobs to people to go out and issue tickets. It’s all about enforcement. It’s like when traffic patrol came across from the police to the councils, they don’t look at walling in the traffic and making it move, they look at issuing tickets. So I’m afraid all they’ll be doing, if it goes badly wrong, will be despatching council officers in pretend police uniforms to issue tickets to people. That’s not the way to deal with root problems that are caused. You need neighbourhood policing teams that have the intelligence and know who the villains are. And if it’s a young person or an older person, it doesn’t really matter. But particularly for younger people, if they’ve done something wrong and we’re going to tackle it, we’re going to use the courts. We need them in court quickly, not waiting for weeks and months and months and months.
PAUL STAINTON: Your concerns though were dismissed really by the councillors weren’t they? They sort of .. you called it in and then it was passed.
ED MURPHY: No not at all. What we actually had was a scrutiny committee, and the Chair of that Lisa Forbes asked some brilliant questions. But we didn’t really get the officers talking to us about how the news scheme would deal with anti-social behaviour.
PAUL STAINTON: How is it supposed to work then? Just tell us.
ED MURPHY: Well what they’re going to do is they say they’re going to be able to deal with people putting cigarettes down in the street centre, maybe the cyclists in the street centre, maybe the beggars, and the fly-tippers in the rural areas. But it doesn’t say how it’s going to deal with anti-social behavior. And effectively what they’re doing is setting up a team that could be privatised.
PAUL STAINTON: Have you had any inkling of that? Have you asked the question?
ED MURPHY: Oh indeed. Indeed. It’s the sort of thing that G4S do. They have uniformed people going around pretending to be police officers. And then they take on the patrolling function. We need a Commissioner in Cambridgeshire that’s committed to neighbourhood policing.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes well we’re got no proof of that, and we’ve not been told that that is the case.
PAUL STAINTON: Your worry is that we’re going to have a sort of second police force walking the streets. Is that what you’re saying.
ED MURPHY: You know in Lincolnshire that G4S took on the contract for all the back-room functions and it’s gone terribly wrong.
PAUL STAINTON: Well G4S of course are not here to defend themselves, so I know there have been problems in various places, but essentially what would you like to happen now then? Would you like this team not to go out? Would you like more thought put into it?
ED MURPHY: What I’d like is this to go into reconfigure, and if they’re going to disband the many police beats we’ve got, that we have enough resources so we don’t lose on neighbourhood police officers. The issues that we heard about earlier on in Arbury, they can be dealt with by a police officer on the ground. And that’s what we need.
PAUL STAINTON: Ed, thank you very much. Ed Murphy who is a Labour councillor in Peterborough, and not happy with this new task force that’s being set up in the city, with new rules and new plans to go out there and target anti-social behavior. Does it worry you slightly that there are people in uniform out on the streets, albeit council people, who perhaps won’t have the powers that the PCSO has, won’t have the intelligence according to Ed Murphy to deal with wider ranging issues? Or should we just get people on the streets tackling this problem whatever?