This morning at the Environment and Transport Scrutiny committee (available here if you have trouble sleeping http://www.northamptonshire.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/65181 ) we were supposed to be scrutinising the County Councils disastrous policy of switching off 50% of the street lights across the county. I say supposed to be because the lead officer never produced a report! He gave a verbal outline and left us even further in the dark as to what the real impact of these budget cutting decisions really are.
I complained of course and asked for a further written report and may have achieved my goal, but I also told the committee that in my mind and in the minds of local residents in Castle Ward that crime and the fear of crime have both risen since the switch off. Reports from our local Police Safer Community Team back up these claims by showing certain crimes showing significant double figure % increases against a background of wider crime figures falling. Burglary for instance year on year if my memory serves me correctly was up by over 70% in Castle Ward last month.
Other Cllrs mentioned crime rises in their areas and also the ineffectiveness of CCTV now in areas which are too dark to pick up a picture
The Tory Cllrs present didn't want to hear any of this of course, "move on" they shouted "next business" they cried, but one brave soldier went further and rose to contradict my claims. Step forward Cllr Andy Mercer, (Rushden East) not an unlikeable bloke for a Tory and usually worth listening to, but then the bombshell!
You see he disagreed with my view on the impact the big switch off may have had on rising crime and wanted to tell us all that life in Rushden is very different indeed "strange and contrasting" were the words he used. Using the local Police as his source of information he told us that crime in some areas of Rushden had gone down since the lights went out, not up, and the reason for this was, and I quote, that
"crooks can't see what they are doing"
he went on to explain his theory to us saying that there were
"places where the criminals wanted illumination"
but the street light shut off had foiled them! he told an amazed committee that because of the Councils policy on street lighting and the darker streets, that Rushden's criminal fraternity may have
"wanted to pick a lock but they had now been unable to"
Now I have always considered their to be something not quite right going on 25 miles along the A4500 and during Rushden and Diamonds FC's time in the Football League I often discussed with fellow Cobblers fans the subtle differences between Northampton folk and our country cousins from the East, but criminals who are afraid of the dark!