FROM THE STUMPS with Conservative candidate Daniel Hinton
It is sad to say, but anti-social behaviour and petty crime have become more common in our Borough, particularly during lockdown.
Like most I was appalled to see the play equipment which had been set on fire in the playground near Latimer Road. I’ve also heard reports of teenagers verbally abusing young children at a local play park, and we have all seen graffiti around our towns.
Those responsible will be a small group and it is important that we don’t tar all teenagers with the same brush. We should also recognise that there is not a large crime wave sweeping through our communities. Nevertheless, it’s clear that we must take appropriate action.
The Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t been easy for any of us, but it’s easy to forget that our teenagers really have pulled a short straw. Schools closed; too old to enjoy our playparks; and cinemas, leisure facilities, shops, workplaces and social spaces have all been shut down for our safety. Many of their opportunities to enjoy and occupy themselves have disappeared.
I’ve already spoken to Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner candidate for the Thames Valley, Matthew Barber, about what can be done with the police to tackle anti-social behaviour after restrictions end.
He told me: “The top priority in My Plan to tackle crime in Thames Valley is strong local policing. That means increasing the visibility of police officers and PCSOs and working in partnership with councils to tackle anti-social behaviour when it occurs and seek to prevent it happening in the future.
“If elected, I will agree a new local policing strategy with the police, looking at everything from where officers are based and the resources available to neighbourhood teams, to how local officers work to tackle long term issues and prevent crime rather than just responding when things go wrong.
“We need to ensure the police are able to manage neighbourhood crimes such a vehicle crime and criminal damage that can make people feel unsafe and damage confidence in local policing. Working with the public, councils and the police we can be tough on crime for safer communities.”
But it can’t just fall to the police to resolve this issue. We must tackle the problem at its roots.
That’s why my fellow Conservative candidates and I have made tackling Anti-Social Behaviour a priority in this election. If elected, we will be calling on the council to work with us to increase youth provision in Wokingham Town and across the Borough.
We need to be speaking with our younger residents and ensuring we are representing them as much as we are their parents.
We need to find other avenues for our younger residents to express themselves and find spaces for them to socialise and entertain themselves without just hanging about on our streets or in parks.
We also need youth workers to support their growth and help them deal with the pressures of their lives. We shouldn’t forget the benefits of helping young people into work, which is why we will be focusing on increasing employment opportunities, starting with the first Employment Support Hub which was approved by the Council’s Executive last month.
I am pleased that there are already more police officers dedicated to Wokingham, but, while an increased police presence or more CCTV might help communities feel safer, they won’t solve the underlying issue.
All our teenagers need affordable leisure opportunities, social opportunities, employment opportunities and support.
We can’t police anti-social behaviour away, but by showing our positive intentions to our younger residents, we can get positive behaviour in return.
After all, we were all young once.
Other candidates standing in Evendons ward: Annette Medhurst, Labour; Ian Shenton, Lib Dem; and Louise Timlin, Women’s Equality Party
Other candidates in the PCC elections are: Laetisia Carter, Labour and Co-operative; John Howson, Lib Dem; and Alan Robinson, Independent