Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Guest Column: Despite Recent Events ‘We Cannot And Must Not Let Fear Of Crime Overtake Our Lives’

We woke up on Saturday morning to the most shocking and horrific news. Tales of men on the rampage on King Street with ‘bladed weapons’, possibly machetes and swords. Scenes that sounded out of place – more at home in cinema horror films than on Britain’s Best High Street. We know that two men are in hospital, and we know that the incident took place around the steps of the Green House pub. Right under the nose of Belper’s CCTV camera number 43.

So presumably, police will have potentially good footage to help them solve this horrific crime – they will have car number plates, been able to follow the paths of the perpetrators on cameras as they arrived and left the scene, right? Like we see often on BBC Crimewatch? Wrong. Although they may have done had the Borough council not recently voted to turn off all but two of the cameras in Belper – one further down King Street and one opposite Derwent street on Bridge Street.

Cameras may or may not have made a difference here. However, many will agree that CCTV in public areas can act as a clear deterrent against crime. Whether press reports of the camera closedown emboldened these criminals, we will never know.

This incident will make none of us feel safer, though we must remember that Belper is not immune from the worst of society, and there are many crimes where CCTV will make no difference either as a deterrent or to gather evidence. Convicted killer and arsonist Anthony Frost, imprisoned in 2004 manslaughter and arson and formerly of Park Road in the Town, recently has been convicted of sickening sex crimes against girls during the 1980s. In September Amber Valley finally secured evictions from two properties where residents suffered being witness to overt drug-dealing and drug-taking, intimidation, violence, noise, and a increase in crime in the area including garden thefts and burglary.

There will always be a criminal element anywhere and Belper is no different. But we can, as individuals and as a community, make a difference. Our first duty is to our children, where we must do all we can to educate them about the horrific dangers of drug use from an early age. We know we have drug dealers operating in Belper, as they do in any town in Britain, we also know that there must be a ready market for them. Class A drug users spend between £15k – £30k a year on their habit and drugwise.org.uk claims that to calculate the value of stolen goods to fund this, you must times the figure by three. That’s £45k – £90k each user must find to fund their habit before feeding clothing and housing. The options are become a Banker in the city of London, or become a burglar/shoplifter – or of course a drug dealer.

Dealers will literally hook young teens in with cash, phones, games, etc – making the children themselves part of the supply chain.

Please talk to your kids, tell them how drugs cause death and misery, how that for a moments pleasure they risk shattering all their dreams and can end up losing limbs to septicaemia, will think of nothing but their next hit, and will steal, cheat, and crawl in the gutter as a slave to the drugs. The smartest, brightest, most sensible kids can and do get hooked in – don’t be complacent. If you have worries about your own children’s behaviour, get professional help. If you see evidence of drug dealing then get a good description, the time and location and contact the police (if it is in progress, then it is 999. You are not a grass for reporting crime). In doing so you are protecting your community and perhaps even saving someone from a lifetime of misery.

Above all, we cannot and must not let fear of crime overtake our lives. The fact that Friday night’s incident was such a rare event is what made it so shocking. Belper is generally a safe, low crime area, and in my opinion the best place to live in the UK, and so long as we remain vigilant and let the criminals know that they cannot act with impunity here, then it will remain so.

Don’t have nightmares.

Cllr Ben Bellamy

Cllr Ben Bellamy

Ben Bellamy is a Labour Borough Councillor and Belper Town Councillor. He is Deputy Leader of Amber Valley Borough Council and has responsibility for the local plan.

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