Firstly, I cannot start my newsletter without reflecting on the deeply concerning developments in the Middle East.
I have been shocked by the barbaric, unprovoked attacks by Hamas against Israeli civilians. Hamas is a terrorist organisation and deserves absolute unequivocal condemnation. Antisemitism must not stand. We must, support absolutely Israel’s right to defend itself, take back the hostages, and deter further incursions, in accordance with international humanitarian law.
Closer to home, I have been concerned to hear of increased shoplifting locally – a trend which has also been seen across the country. Therefore, this month I invited a number of local retailers, Chief Inspector Jones of Kent Police and Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent, Matthew Scott to a meeting to discuss the problem.
Each retailer was able to express the problems they were experiencing - and it was particularly upsetting to hear about the violence and threats some staff are having to face. This is unacceptable and must be stopped.
The common theme was a request for more visible policing, and I was grateful to Chief Inspector Jones and Matthew Scott for listening and setting out their plans. I was pleased to hear that they are placing a greater focus on this issue by targeting repeat offenders in the district and using all the powers they have to act, including orders that ban them from stores.
Matthew has overseen a huge increase in police numbers within Kent (with 4,203 officers in comparison with 3,787 in 2010) and there was clearly an expressed view from local retailers for more of these officers to be deployed locally.
I welcomed the clear commitment from Matthew in response for additional resource, and he confirmed that more of these Officers are going to be deployed into our local neighbourhoods. This will mean residents will see more visible patrols available to respond when needed. Officers have also recently been pro-actively engaging with businesses as part of Safer Business Action Week where they’ve been visiting local businesses and conducting surveys.
Building on this, the Home Office’s Retail Crime Action Plan announced last week includes a commitment from the police to prioritise attending instances of shoplifting involving violence against shop workers or when security guards have detained an offender. These are welcome developments and a step in the right direction.
My thanks go to all the shop owners and shop workers in Sevenoaks and Swanley who are dealing with this every day. I will do all I can to help.
MP for Sevenoaks and Swanley
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