Paul’s Campaign Diary

Campaign Diary – Crawley

To Langley Green, Crawley at the invitation of Cllr Michael Jones, leader of the council. I was hugely honoured to be welcomed by the local councillors and candidates, and two portfolio holders, as well as local Labour activists. We spoke with retailers about crime and antisocial behaviour, hearing the usual stories of abuse, violence, theft and a tardy police response.

At the Co-op, they’ve introduced security guards through the Co-op’s contract with Mitie. This has had a significant impact in reducing looting after months of mayhem. It makes the point that frequent uniformed police patrols of areas such as Langley Green would deter crime and reassure the public. The square has become a magnet for drugs dealing, street drinking, and antisocial behaviour. A police presence would make the place feel safe for shoppers and families.

As I travelled back to Eastbourne from Crawley (via Three Bridges, change at Haywards Heath) I reflected on two things: one, how much I regret the decision to implement the Beeching cuts to the railway in the 1960s which closed lines in Sussex. And two, how we vacated the public square and created a vacuum for others to fill. The absence of any authority figures, aside from the underpaid and much-abused Mitie contractors, means basic norms are not enforced.

For example, in Eastbourne, the deserted Debenhams has become a place for young people to break into, smoke weed, and party. We create a lawless space when we desert the high street. This was a bustling department store – now it’s the Wild West. I observed something similar in the NCP car park behind Eastbourne station the other evening. The fact is that the police are stretched too thin to do much about it.  

Let’s do something about it. Polling Day is the day after tomorrow, and remember to bring your photo ID to vote.