Statement from Pontypridd MP Alex Davies-Jones
Written by Gavin on 2nd August 2021
Statement from Pontypridd MP Alex Davies-Jones
“Anti-social behaviour is destroying communities in my area. And for the people living in fear of it, enough is enough.
Almost every week someone from my local area contacts me on social media or by email about problems caused by anti-social behaviour.
Communities across Pontypridd are on the brink and I even know some residents who are scared to leave their homes at night.
And to make matters worse, I know this is not a unique situation that people in my area have been placed in.
Anti-social behaviour persists at the heart of communities up and down the country, and it is about time that the UK Tory Government got a grip and gave the police the resources they desperately need to take appropriate action. Whether it’s graffiti, damage to a football pitch, modified cars back-firing at all hours of the night, or aggressive and threatening behaviour on street corners, this pattern of behaviour seems to be getting worse, not better.
In the last couple of weeks alone I’ve met with exasperated residents, liaised with Councillors across Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, and repeatedly spoken with South Wales Police to raise concerns.
I even met with the Minister for Safeguarding in UK Government, Victoria Atkins MP, to describe first-hand the struggles that people in my community are facing.
Yet the Conservatives in Westminster have cut our police to the lowest level in a generation and cut funding for services that prevent crime from happening.
Recent analysis has also shown that anti-social behaviour is on the rise, with 5.5 million more people having experienced it last year than in 2011/12.
And whilst my local force, South Wales Police, have been fantastic in their response to this and the pandemic, I know that their resources are ultimately overstretched.
They schedule regular patrols of affected areas and really are keen to do everything they can to help the local community, yet still the problem persists.
We simply cannot continue to ignore the links between the UK Government’s detrimental policy to cut police funding and the persistence of anti-social behaviour.
Police are facing cuts to their budget in real terms with analysis showing a £1.6bn real-terms gap in overall funding when compared to 2010-11. Shockingly, there are now more than 9,000 fewer police officers on our streets than there were in 2010.
The Prime Minister is more than familiar at making promises without being able to deliver, and sadly his lack-lustre approach to policing is no different.
He has been promising 20,000 extra police officers to replace those who left under successive Conservative Governments, but where are they?
We all know that the police are also facing staff absences due to self-isolation and illness yet once again, the Tory Government are trying to make them do more with less. This is particularly galling at a time when every aspect of their job puts them at risk of contracting the virus.
But there is no sense of focus from the Home Office and from the UK Government in tackling this problem, and I see no indication that they really understand how to support policing and intervention in small working-class communities like my own.
And all this is happening under the watch of a Home Secretary who prides herself on being ‘tough on crime’.
Indeed, the Home Secretary is always welcome in Pontypridd. I’d be more than willing to show her the impact that her department’s devastating cuts are having on communities like mine.
We desperately need a new Victims’ Law that gives victims of anti-social behaviour the same rights as those who have experience other kinds of crimes.
People absolutely deserve to feel safe and secure in their neighbourhoods, and currently the UK Government are failing people up and down the country.
Yet as with every social issue, there is always another side to the story.
As the Mum of a young one at home, I’d hate to see anti-social behaviour policies become attacking of our young people – there of course must be a balance.
We all know that the coronavirus pandemic has had an enormous impact on young people. From not being able to go to school, or take their exams, or see their friends for months at a time it is undeniable that young people across the country have made huge sacrifices this year to support the fight against coronavirus.
And if my meetings with schools are anything to go by, we are also facing a crisis in young people’s mental health with more pupils than ever before in need of support.
It is clear that there are two key issues at play here, and it can be all too easy to conflate the two.
There are a minority of people who are engaged in serious forms of anti-social behaviour. Sadly, there are very real and horrible instances involving intimidation, alcohol and drug abuse, rallying in car parks, and violence which, it goes without saying, are completely unacceptable.
When I reflect on my own teen years, and own ability to cope with the uncertainty of a global pandemic during such formative years, I can’t help but feel that we owe young people better support systems than are currently in place.
The vast majority of young people that I know have been exemplary, even when faced with cancelled exams, home-schooling and uncertainty about university places.
Yes of course it is vital to ensure police have the powers and resources they need to tackle criminal and threatening behaviour, but we all need to ensure that we have a holistic response in place to support young people through this difficult time.
Driving young people who are unable to cope with the impact of the pandemic into the system simply isn’t a solution.
To drive out anti-social behaviour across the country, we need to see more police who are available and equipped with the appropriate training to understand the complex reasons behind why youths are turning to criminal behaviour.
The Conservatives have failed to invest the time and funding into local community policing initiatives that are so desperately needed in communities like mine.
And in recent months we’ve all been horrified by the shocking stories involving violence against women and girls too.
I fear that without rapid action, anti-social behaviour could soon escalate and be at the heart of further losses up and down the country, and I urge the UK Government to take notice.”