Anti-social behaviour – in all its many forms – can blight communities and ruin lives.
Each, and every, week I am contacted by constituents concerned by rogue bikers, vandalism, noise nuisance, rowdy youths, fly-tipping or other serious issues.
These problems can cause abject misery. Illegal off-road bikers are an obvious danger to the public, while graffiti, nuisance behaviour, street drinking or loud music can spark alarm or distress.
Almost 300 anti-social behaviour (ASB) crimes were reported within Sunderland Central constituency just in April this year. No-one should have to live their lives in daily fear of crime, yet sadly many do.
The impact of ASB is a huge worry. Northumbria Police do their best in difficult circumstances, yet years of savage austerity by the Tories, and their coalition partners the Lib Dems, means the force has suffered the largest funding cut of any in England.
I’ve fought hard for years in Parliament for extra funding but, in the last year alone, over 100 officers have been lost from our streets – making it harder than ever to clamp down on local issues.
Priorities are clear – crimes posing the greatest threat must be tackled first. However, while anti-social behaviour may be classed as less serious in some cases, the impact on people can still be huge.
There is no doubt that persistent and constant ASB can have an effect of people’s relationships, on their health, and on their general wellbeing.
It is crucial, therefore, that everyone plays their part in tackling ASB. We need to look at the causes, and impact, of the problems – and help the police focus their money where it is needed most.
Over the next few months I will be holding community events across Sunderland Central, alongside police officers, councillors and other stakeholders, to give residents a chance to highlight problem issues.
I want people to know they have a voice, and that the problems they report will be taken seriously. It is vital our police get an accurate picture of possible crimes, to allow them to take direct action.
A strong sense of community spirit still thrives across Sunderland and I hope that we can all come together to help improve life for everyone in our city.