One of the things I hear most often when talking to constituents is that they don’t want to go into the Town centre as much anymore due to concerns about crime and anti-social behaviour.

I never like when people talk down our Town, and I always want to push back and say, “No, you should go and spend money and support our brilliant independent businesses in the Town centre.”

We have so much to offer, like great independent shops that offer all kinds of things you can’t get online and the brilliant microshops initiative providing opportunities for small retailers.

But we have to recognise that there's a sad situation with groups of young men hanging around the Town centre blighting the experience for everyone else, making other people, especially women, feel uncomfortable going about their business.

I hear so many stories of people feeling intimidated by these groups of men standing around soliciting, often staring at women, or drinking where they shouldn’t.

I heard recently from a constituent who was stalked by a group of young men who followed her. Thankfully, she was helped by some other women and got away safely, but stories like these are all too common.

The sheer number of people these stories resonate with show the true scale of the problem. We have to stop this immediately, with more bobbies on the beat and a zero-tolerance approach.

Only a few weeks ago, our whole community was shaken by the tragic incident on Westgate Street in which an 18-year-old man was stabbed and killed in broad daylight, witnessed by unsuspecting members of the public.

These kinds of incidents have a chilling effect on the community and also set back our efforts to regenerate local business and level up our Town.

Even with all the work and money going into investing in our Town and local businesses, it will be difficult to make a difference if people don’t feel safe going out in the Town in the first place.

If it’s the case that groups of young men are hanging around, drinking alcohol and behaving in a way that puts people off and makes them feel uncomfortable, we should lower the threshold for moving these people on.

We have no-drinking zones, but it doesn’t seem that these are being properly enforced. We need a proper deterrent, and I’ll be raising these with the Chief Constable of Suffolk Police when I meet with her today.

It’s important to acknowledge that we have made progress in terms of police presence and monitoring. Since 2019, Suffolk has had 137 new police officers.

We’ve made successful bids for almost £1 million from the Safer Streets Fund to support enhanced CCTV in the Town centre, which is currently being installed, and over £1 million from the Shared Prosperity Fund, for 3 additional officers in the Town centre during the day.

We’ve seen an enhanced presence in the Town centre since the incident last month, which is heartening. This should be made permanent.

Despite this, the national police funding formula should be looked at, as currently funding for Suffolk police isn’t fair. If it was, we would have got more than 137 new officers, and this is something I’ve been campaigning on since I became a member of Parliament.

But it’s not just about numbers. We need to take a tougher approach – specifically a zero-tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour. That’s what I called for in Parliament this week.

We need to get serious about tackling anti-social behaviour. It’s high time people feel safe to go out into the Town centre, and it’s just not right to allow a small group of badly behaving people ruin the experience for the rest of us.