Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kensington, Liverpool, a violent crime hot-spot?

The Liverpool Echo carried a double page spread earlier this week exposing details of a police report showing that Kensington is in the top 5 of violent crime hot-spots across Merseyside. Even worse, it tells us "The area is named-and-shamed as having more murders and attempted murders and a bigger gun problem than the other four – Liverpool city centre, Anfield, Toxteth and Birkenhead."

There is clearly very much work to be done. The paper contained a long statement from the three of us, detailing some of that work that is being undertaken.

I am going to spend some serious time thinking about this. We have a very good handle on burglary, on anti-social behaviour, on car crime and so on, but the area is still suffering from violent crime.

Two things strike me from reading the article; the first is that the majority of the violent crimes are being committed by criminals who know their victims personally and in some cases it is members of the criminal fraternity falling out with one another. That kind of crime is going to prove very difficult to tackle and it is a problem in other parts of the country too, Belfast for instance and Manchester. Some of the solution must lie in removing weapons from criminals. The more we can get guns and knives away from violent people, the less likely they are to use them.

The other thing that strikes me is the large number of the cases quoted in the newspaper that were committed on Kensington Fields. The Fields is not actually in our ward, it is part of Central ward, although that is a nuance I would not expect either the public or the newspapers to know about or care about. It is of course all "Kensington" and shares the same police force and other partners and agencies, as the rest of Kensington, irrespective of which ward it is in. The Fields was also the place where the 11 lads lived who were given ASBOs in mass action in 2005. And it was the Fields where one particular Chinese Cigarette factory was uncovered.

And yet the Fields is now a conservation area, an attractive looking Victorian housing estate where although there is a fluctuating student population, there are also families who have lived there for 50 years.

Why should all this activity be happening there? I suspect it will turn out to be a one-man or two-man crime wave, someone who happens to live there.

I know that on the Molyneux and in the Holt Road area we had the most enormous upswing in burglaries in 2007/8 and we bucked all the trends. It eventually transpired that all the burglaries, hundreds of them, were carried out by one lad and a few of his mates, and once he had gone into prison, our rates dropped right back down in line with everywhere else.

So if the police catch the man they are currently searching for, who they believe shot at least three of the people featured in the newspaper and who they know well, will our rate of violent crime drop too?

There must be a middle way though, between terror and fear that violence stalks our streets, and a complacency that the criminals are only committing violence against each other and if you are not a criminal then you will be safe. There must be action on the part of the community against violent crime, not just action by the police. People in Kensington need to find a way to get over the fear of recriminations and feel able to give intelligence to the police about who the criminals are and more importantly where they are. And I think Councillors have a role there to receive, anonymise and pass on informtion to the police, on behalf of residents, so that we can make progress while keeping people safe.

It is a very thorny issue and the figures show we are a long way from resolving it yet but we are all very willing. Do read our statement which is on page 3 of the newspaper article.

What do you think residents, councillors, police, partners, agencies, courts etc can do to reduce levels of violent crime?

1 comment:

scouseboy said...

I think it is whatever interpretation of the figures you put on it. Whilst violent crime (and there is no excuse for it) is up in the Kensington area is up, general crime compares favourably with the rest of the city.
I think you are doing all that you can, engaging with young people and community groups. i genuinely have no answer as to how to tackle organised crime.