Last week I held one of my regular community events, where I invite my constituents to join me and a member of the neighbourhood policing team to discuss the challenges facing our community.
I’ve held many of these events over the years, and giving local people the chance to ask me about any aspect of my work has helped me to better-understand the issues that matter to us all.
What’s become clear is that for so many in our area, rising crime and the impact of anti-social behaviour is a huge worry.
Unfortunately, almost ten years of Tory austerity means the police are lacking the staff and resources to fully clamp down on this problem.
Northumbria Police has faced the largest funding cut of any police force in England. In the last year alone, we’ve lost over 100 police officers from our streets – all at a time when crime is on the rise.
With resources stretched, officers face no choice but to prioritise responding to crimes that pose the greatest threat.
One police officer simply can’t be in several places at the same time.
As a result, problems like theft and anti-social behaviour are not getting the attention they deserve. Whilst these crimes may be classed as minor in comparison to some, the impact they can have on people’s lives is huge.
At the same time, government cuts have decimated the vital public services that hold communities like ours together – which has only made life more difficult for our police.
Youth facilities and children’s services have struggled to carry out the work that helps prevent young people from falling into crime.
We are all incredibly grateful for the hard work our police force do in increasingly difficult circumstances.
I also know that many kind people in our area dedicate much of their time to volunteering for charities and community groups that seek to plug the gap left by austerity.
But gratitude and goodwill alone are not enough to save our area from the real risks it faces as a result of disastrous cuts to policing.
Local groups shouldn’t face such pressure to act as a substitute for properly funded public services, and it’s unacceptable that government ministers are expecting them to do this.
The government can’t ignore our community for much longer, and must act to make policing in the north east a priority.
Read the original article in the Sunderland Echo here.