Why I’m disappointed FoI request to Cambs Police reveal that migrant crime figures for Wisbech are not available

WHAT are the migrant crime figures for Cambridgeshire? You would expect our police force to have this answer at their fingertips.

Apparently not. So how, I wonder, can they strategise their crime busting operations for the county – and Wisbech, in particular?

I’ve read their police priorities for 2011/14 which state at the top of its list “studying current and emerging crime trends”. Yet if the police force isn’t gathering data about crimes involving new foreign citizens, I don’t see how this can be achieved.

Or maybe it has the data, and doesn’t want to share that information. After all, I imagine their paperwork includes all the tick boxes which answers those questions and is filed on a computer.

I sent Cambridgeshire Constabulary a Freedom of Information request following my recent article about Wisbech. I thought it would be helpful to establish once and for all the crimes committed in the town following the Daily Mail’s sensational story describing Wisbech’s ‘Baltic Mafia’, drug dealers, widespread drunken and anti-social behaviour, local people afraid to go out, and the murder of Latvian Alisa Dmitrijeva.

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I thought it would be helpful to establish the facts, and, hopefully, squash unfounded claims which have upset so many Wisbech people, in an attempt to improve the town’s image.

I also wondered whether the fears of Cambridgeshire’s former chief constable Julie Spence were justified. She had warned of a huge surge of organised crime following the influx of eastern European citizens into our towns and requested more police to deal with complex problems posed by the influx of migrant workers.

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At the time, back in 2007, she estimated it could take as much as three times longer for officers to deal with a crime involving a migrant worker. The former chief constable said immigrants often arrived with “different standards” from those in the UK, most notably over issues such as carrying knives and drink-driving, which has seen a 17-fold rise in arrests of foreigners in a year. Was she correct?

But my request for information about migrant crime figures in Cambridgeshire, with a focus on Wisbech, hit a brick wall.

The police response was:

“It is estimated that it will take a minimum of 25,000 hours at a cost of �25 an hour to view 500,008 records to provide an answer to this request which is above the 18 hour cost limit.

“This is due to the fact that in order to ascertain if the offender was a ‘migrant’ would require us to read all of the crimes to try and discover if the offender was in fact a ‘migrant’.

“Each crime would also need to be reviewed to ascertain the number of crimes committed by Eastern Europeans and also for any crimes appertaining to Wisbech.”

There was no answer to my additional question about how Wisbech was policed after the town’s station closes its doors; it is only open 9-5 pm. Does this mean Wisbech has no police offices in its town after those hours?

Surely they knew the answer to this question. Wisbech people need to be reassured about a police presence in their town at all times, not just 9-5 pm, so why couldn’t they tell me?

Wisbech people will soon have the chance to highlight their police priorities when it elects its own Cambridgeshire Police Commission in November. It means the police force will no longer be run in a top-down management style, and the Commissioner will be accountable to the public for how crime is tackled in their police force areas. He could even sack the chief constable.

In the words of police minister Nick Herbert it will herald a new era of policing since “the government has been clear about the lack of effective accountability that police authorities exert on policing. They are insufficiently connected to the public.”

I think the police response to my Freedom of Information request is a perfect example of that, it has refused to be accountable on a very important issue.

And, I wonder, is our police force in Cambridgeshire suppressing details of crime from the public?

I understand from an eye witness that armed police were in Wisbech last Monday morning after two migrants were seen with an imitation gun, and people were naturally alarmed. Yet there was no report of this in the local paper. The people of Wisbech are talking about this incident, yet they do not know if any charges were made, and because there is no magistrates’ court in the town, they will not get the chance to see that justice is carried out if they are charged.

I hope other people will also ask the police these questions and make them accountable to win public trust, and, ultimately, work together to overcome any difficulties which communities.

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