Fight against drug gangs hindered by austerity, campaigners claim
The battle against Suffolk drug gangs is being hindered by a lack of resource, it has been claimed - after a round of government funding left the county short-changed.
Police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said he was delighted the county’s £56,997 bid for a thinking skills programme, to prevent young people getting involved in drugs in the first place, was just one of 29 successful applications out of 111 nationally.
Even though neighbouring areas got much more, with Essex awarded £664,000 and Norfolk £699,850, Mr Passmore said Suffolk already had anti-drugs programmes those two counties are looking to set up.
But Suffolk missed out on an additional £220,000 it applied for from the Home Office’s Early Intervention Youth Fund.
Campaigners in the town have slammed the lack of police resource to deal with the issue, with Ipswich Labour councillor Carole Jones - whose ward includes a so-called ‘drug hotspot’ in Providence Lane - saying officers “do what they can, but can only do what they can with the numbers that they’ve got. We need more police officers”.
Fellow Westgate ward Labour councillor Colin Kreidewolf added: “It’s the issue of austerity that has gone way, way too far.”
However Mr Passmore said that while he would have liked more money and is pressing ministers for greater funding, policing on its own will not solve the whole issue.
“I completely understand people are concerned but I would reiterate that the constabulary are doing a fantastic job,” he said.
“Of course we are really stretched and I am doing everything I can about the funding settlement and it’s really high time that there was more funding.
“However you can’t expect the police to solve all these problems. Tackling the underlying causes is absolutely crucial.”
Mr Passmore believes the thinking skills programme, which will help to mentor young people individually and in groups to stop them falling into a life of crime, will go a long way towards solving the problem.
But others would still like to see more police on the streets, with Suffolk Police Federation chairman Darren Harris saying: “There has been under-funding of the police for years.
“People in Ipswich and Suffolk that are troubled with this crime should expect more from their government with funding for the police so they get a better service, and so the police can offer the service they expect.”