Police urge communities in Westgate Ward, Ipswich, to stand together as one
Residents of Ipswich's Westgate Ward are being urged to embrace different cultures in an effort to build a community spirit in one of the most deprived areas in Suffolk.
Over the past two or three years it has been particularly blighted by drug-dealing, crime and anti-social behaviour.
To combat this strenuous efforts are being made to construct a sense of togetherness and tolerance.
No one is suggesting it is easy to solve issues which have been especially prevalent in the area stretching from Handford Road to the YMCA in Norwich Road.
However, police, councillors and various agencies are putting a lot of effort in to try.
One of the problems to overcome is it is a low income ward with an often transient melting pot of cultures who have to live cheek-by-jowl, but lack an understanding of each other.
The focal point for many of the problems has been Jubilee Park near Victoria Street.
A concerted effort to cut back the vegetation, enforcement, weapons searches and making the park more appealing has helped.
But, Sergeant Vicky McParland from the local Safer Neighbourhood Team said police and councillors can not transform the area alone.
Sgt McParland said: “The biggest thing in Westgate Ward is there is a massively diverse community and there are lots of different stresses and strains.
People come from different parts of the EU and have different ways of life.
“If you moved somewhere you would probably expect to maintain a different way of life.
“It is trying to balance what society in Ipswich sees as normal, with the people who move in.
“A lot of these communities are drawn to each other. You find very few of them living (in isolation) in other areas of the town.
“The council and the Jubilee Friends’ Association are working really hard to try to create that sense of community and bring everyone together so problems can be aired and issues addressed.
“It is a brilliant idea. It brings people together.
“It’s trying to get people to take part in what is there and hopefully if we start to encourage cohesion people will enjoy living where they live.
“For us we have two roles. One is trying to enforce the law. The other is being aware of issues and trying to nip them in the bud.
“There will always be clashes of culture. The schools in the area are coming together to try to help the situation from an early age so the children can understand each other’s background.
“We need the community to work with us and we need to work with the community.
“The biggest issue is the language barrier.
“If we can’t communicate with people there is no point in us being here so we now have volunteer translators.
“Everybody is different and it is about embracing different cultures.”
More than 20 residents were at a meeting of the Jubilee Friends’ Association earlier this month, which is seen a positive sign, especially as a number of nationalities were represented.
A community event in August is planned in association with the Westgate Ward Club to help showcase the area’s many cultures.
While attempts are being made to address the cultural issues, drug-dealing also still needs to the tackled.
Sgt Mc Parland said: “If you look hard enough anywhere you will see evidence of drug-dealing.
“A hard core of drug users will congregate in areas where they can get drugs.
“It needs a sustained response. You can’t just cure it overnight. It needs to be over a number of years.
“We are trying our absolute damndest.
“We can only act on the information we receive and cannot be somewhere 24/7.
“We rely on community intelligence. People should not be afraid to contact us through the constabulary website or by using Crimestoppers, which is anonymous.
“If the community stands together against these people we create an environment in which they can not operate.”
Earlier this year a three-month closure order was put on a house in Prospect Street which was notorious for anti-social behaviour, drug-dealing and violence.
Its closure has had a positive effect on the area with residents feeling they can go about their normal business without, on occasions, feeling like prisoners in their own homes.