‘Barbaric’ sex attack in Ipswich town centre reopens debate over police patrols

Police are appealing for witnesses following the attack. Picture: ARCHANT

Police are appealing for witnesses following the attack. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

The debate over police patrols in Ipswich town centre has been reopened following the sexual assault of a young woman.

• A woman in her 20s was found unconscious in Tacket Street car park following the attack in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Call police on 101 to help, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin and Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere say more police should be on patrol in the town, particularly late at night over the weekend. They believe an extra police presence could help prevent violent crimes.

But Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner, Tim Passmore, said he was left reassured by Suffolk Constabulary’s chief constable Gareth Wilson that there is enough police cover.

He said: “I am utterly appalled at this cowardly and brutal attack. I think it is absolutely shocking and an act of extreme depravity. I can certainly reassure everybody in Suffolk that whatever can possibly be done to bring the perpetrators to justice as quickly is being done.

“The chief constable has told me he has all the resources he needs to deal with this investigation. Our force is at full stretch and is doing a heck of a good job, but we don’t receive the funding and support from the Home Office that other forces do and we will be taking that forward.

“These crimes are pretty rare in Suffolk. The problem is, when they do happen, we are all shocked and appalled and of course our thoughts go out to the victims. We are just not used to these things happening. I understand why there is public anxiety. I feel that anxiety myself.”

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Asked whether there are enough police officers on patrol on Ipswich town centre at night at the weekend, Mr Passmore added: “That is down to the decision of the chief constable. I asked him that specific question myself and he said, yes, there are enough there.

“What I do think needs to be understood is that there is a lot more being done which is not obvious to the public – various operations which are ongoing. I am (now) satisfied, which is why I asked the chief constable, and he is quite content.

“Obviously people do need to be careful and look after each other, but that in no way excuses this barbaric act.”

He said he believes Ipswich is still a “safe” town, adding: “Sadly in any society in the world there are some depraved and deranged individuals who act in this disgraceful way. Try not to get isolated and make sure you are in well-lit areas – don’t take shortcuts.”

Mr Martin said: “We need more police along the streets in Ipswich. There are 300 fewer police officers in Suffolk than 2010 and a lot of that has been in Ipswich. We are now seeing the consequences.

“This crime may or may not have happened if there had been more police around but we know the likelihood of crime is going to go up, and violent crime is already going up. We cannot continue to see the government cutting the number of police officers and PCSOs in Ipswich.”

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Mr Ellesmere said: “We will have a look at whether there is anything more we can do to improve town centre safety at night.

“There is a lot we do already. We have got CCTV, the streets remain lit, and we have got the town pastors and taxi marshals schemes.

“We know the police have had funding cuts and their resources are stretched. Myself and Sandy Martin (Ipswich MP) had a meeting with the police and crime commissioner and chief constable last week. We said we need more police on patrol in Ipswich.

“We speak to residents all the time and they’re telling us they don’t think there is enough police. Given that we have had a number of high-profile incidents in the town in recent weeks, we do need more police to reassure people.

“If we had large numbers of police on patrol, there may have been a reduction in crime. That is something Sandy and myself are urging police to look at, but they need more money.”