On Saturday I took full advantage of the unseasonably warm weather by enjoying my lunch outside one of Birstall’s many wonderful eateries, writes Tracy Brabin MP in her latest Batley News column.
As I sat, watching the world go by in the glorious winter sun, it reminded me just how fantastic a town it can be.
There’s a great deal to be proud of and cherish in a community absolutely committed to seeing the town prosper.
Which makes the recent spike in burglaries and persistent anti-social behaviour all the more soul-destroying.
I visited numerous small businesses over the weekend, independent local firms where every single penny counts.
The owners’ lives are being turned upside down by burglaries and vandalism, while those they employ share the strain of uncertainty.
As someone whose formative years were spent around my mum’s Birstall café, I know all too well how financially precarious it can be. One break-in can be all it takes to push you over the edge.
And, of course, it’s not just the people of Birstall who’ve suffered as a result of rising crime.
A quick scroll through the local social media groups will tell you all you need to know.
There is so much good in Batley and Spen and so much to celebrate, so we can’t let the actions of a handful of thugs ruin it for the rest of us.
But sadly, there are those who say they’re losing faith in our police force altogether. We need to tackle this head-on. Every community deserves to feel safe.
What people desperately want to see is action – to see those who are responsible for their misery face the consequences.
Anger is increasingly directed at the police for a perceived lack of action, but we also have to place our current plight in context.
I’m acutely aware that resources are severely limited after years of government cuts – but I know this offers little comfort to those who are battling to keep their businesses afloat, or those waiting days for officers to respond to a call-out.
And this is exactly the message I will be delivering to West Yorkshire Police in the coming weeks and months. I will not refrain from asking difficult questions of those in charge of keeping our communities safe.
However, I also understand this cannot be done in isolation. In the House of Commons I have repeatedly asked for more resources for our beleaguered police force, including to the Prime Minister herself.
We’ve lost an astonishing 1,100 police officers and 152 PCSOs in West Yorkshire since 2010. And while this may not be the only reason for the rise in crime, it’s undoubtedly played a large part.
Our police officers work incredibly hard, often putting themselves in danger in the process. I’ve seen it for myself when I spent a day on the job and I have nothing but respect and gratitude for all they give.
In my opinion, the resources required to do their job safely and effectively is the least we can offer as a token of our appreciation.