FENLAND:Tory Party Leader David Cameron sings the praises of Fenland District Council

EXCLUSIVE BY John Elworthy TORY Party leader David Cameron publicly praised Fenland District Council for bringing in a dispersal order in Wisbech which he said dramatically reduced the fear of crime. The number of residents reporting that they feel saf


BY John Elworthy

TORY Party leader David Cameron publicly praised Fenland District Council for bringing in a dispersal order in Wisbech which he said dramatically reduced the fear of crime.

"The number of residents reporting that they feel safe at night has increased from 19 per cent to 47 per cent," he said.

Mr Cameron singled out Fenland Council during the launch of the Conservative Party's 2008 local election campaign

He told party activists and media representatives from across the country that a dispersal order introduced last year had been responsible for reducing the fear of crime in Wisbech.

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Mr Cameron said Fenland tackled the problem of youths congregating at hot spots during the evening "by adopting a two pronged strategy. It has introduced a Wisbech Dispersal Order to break up such gatherings.

"At the same time it is giving these young people discounted access to leisure facilities, allowing them to benefit from healthy activities."

It transpired this week, however, that only eight young people took up the council's offer of a three month free gym membership at the Hudson Leisure Centre but the council was happy it had been a successful campaign.

Paul Medd, the council's executive director, said that Mr Cameron had identified the first Wisbech Town Centre and Park Dispersal Order which ran from last April to October (it was later extended for a further six months).

Mr Medd said the indication of people's fears came from a survey conducted by the Safer Fenland Partnership which sent out 200 questionnaires.

Of the 129 that were returned, residents had been asked to reflect, on a scale of one to 10, how safe they felt at night whilst the order was in place.

With 10 being very safe, and one being very unsafe, 47 per cent of respondents gave the response of between 6-10 compared to only 19 per cent feeling safe before the order was made.

Targeting of young people by police gave rise to some being offered a three month gym pass at the Hudson Leisure Centre.

"Twenty young people aged between 14 and 16 were identified as at risk of community anti social behaviour after having been spoken to by the police on several occasions," he said.

"To engage these young people in the project, FDC wrote to these 20 people and the police visited their houses to gain the buy in of parents to the process.

"All 20 young people were invited to an initial meeting explaining what was on offer and 13 young people attended."

Although only eight young people decided to attend the gym they came up with their own terms and conditions for the use of the gym pass, he said.

"This included not to get dispersed by the police, walk away from large groups causing a nuisance, keep noise to a minimum, stay away from Wisbech Pavilion, and respect the new smoking ban at all times.

"It was made clear to these eight people that if they broke one of the terms and conditions that they would lose their free gym pass and there would be no second chance.

"These eight people went on to be regular users at the leisure centre for three months between August and October, and they made a total of 80 visits to the centre."

He added that the eight young people had no further contact with the police during the three month period they held a gym membership.

"Furthermore, to date, nine months after the scheme began and six months after the gym membership ended, they have had no further contact with the police."

Mr Cameron added: "Our councillors are totally committed to fighting the crime, anti social behaviour and vandalism that ruins people's quality of life."

n Thirty nine of the 40 Fenland councillors are Conservatives. The council is not involved in this year's local elections.

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