More than 80 students, teachers, faith groups, volunteers, and other community members came together virtually to consider the next steps for the movement, which aims to create change for social justice and the common good.
Citizens UK has branches across the country and in Peterborough the organisation has already emboldened young people across the city to push for greater support from mental health services.
The alliance is still in its early stages, but has been training leaders to listen to the stories of Peterborough, identifying four key recurring issues of concern:
- Issue 1 Homelessness and housing
- Issue 2 Unfriendliness/Racism
- Issue 3 Mental Health
- Issue 4 Crime/Safety
At the weekend we recounted stories from Hannah on homelessness, and today we concentrate on research from Thomas Deacon Academy, and some worrying anecdotes on crime and safety.
Something that was really evident from the research was that, regardless of the demographic, the same message was shared. In this instance, it related to feeling unsafe and the dislike for people using drugs and displaying antisocial behaviour in Central Park, the surrounding areas, and some of the landmark ‘nice’ places in Peterborough.
One teacher, in their late 30s remarked that they no longer feel safe when they are in the city, especially Cathedral Square, due to the increase in drug use. This was echoed by other staff who noted a rise in safety concerns, antisocial behaviour, and gang like behaviour due to drugs and crime.
Another member of staff said Peterborough is blessed with parks and green spaces, but it is concerning they are becoming "un-visitable places."
Parents also highlighted issues surrounding drugs and antisocial behaviour in the local parks, suggesting they are ‘no-go’ places, that are more attractive to drinkers and cannabis smokers than young families.
One parent reported drug dealing outside their house numerous times and noted that “Central Park is supposed to be jewel of Peterborough, but it is now swarmed with gangs of teenagers using drugs.
Every week something bad happens there, I know because I live not far from it, we’ve stopped visiting that park with our children. This issue does not solely sit with adults, students raised similar issues.
Nadia, aged 17: Central Park, Queensgate, Lincoln Road, any street after dark or when alone - why should these places evoke fear in us? Not just girls and boys but grown women and men too who cling to their phones or ask their friends to walk them home because “better safe than sorry”.
Why should my mum from a young age have to teach me to scream “fire” rather than “rape” because people are less likely to come out and help with the latter?
Why should my dad have to teach me that if I fear I am being followed, not to come home but rather to a crowded place and ask someone for help? Why should my male friends have to offer to walk me home once it gets dark because it’s not safe for me to be alone?
And why should my boyfriend have to stay on the phone to me whilst I recite my location and the appearance of anyone who seems threatening to me?
I should not by the age of 17 have on numerous occasions been catcalled, touched, followed, offered drugs and insulted, I should not have felt as though I am not safe in Peterborough as a young child and as a growing young woman - I should be able to freely walk down the street or in the park without clinging to my phone or keys, with my feet ready to run if needed.
Year 7 student (aged 12): I live near Central Park. I often see people dealing and doing drugs on our street, outside my house, and in Central Park. My Mum has reported the people outside our house, but nothing seems to change. I like to visit Central Park with my friend, but we often see groups and gangs of older people doing drugs and hanging around.
This makes me feel unsafe and scared. When I see these people, I usually leave the park and go home. I feel I cannot visit the park because of this issue. If there were more ‘good people’ and families in the park, I would feel safer as I could go to them for help.
Another student said: My home is meant to be my sanctuary, not something I'm scared to walk home to every night. The area I live in is frightening for me. Never knowing what is going to happen next.
I was at home watching a series with my mum one evening when we heard a huge bang. I thought it was fireworks or something, as it is a normal occasion in Welland.
My brother ran down the stairs and told us there was a fire just outside of our house. I took a look out the window and saw two teenagers pouring petrol on the walkway opposite where I live. They had decided to light a petrol bomb off which had caused a fire. The fire wasn't massive; however, it could easily have caught a light to the trees and bushes. It also could have been much more dangerous if the fire was closer to our house.
We called the fire department, and they came and put the fire out. It was not the worst thing that has ever happened in Welland. However, it is an example of daily life living there. It makes it difficult for me to sleep and often I worry something will happen when I leave the house. There is always something going on in my area.
I was about to go to sleep when I heard a man screaming in rage and anger outside the back of my house. He was threatening to hit someone. I took a peek to see what was going on outside my window when I realized he had a golf club. I couldn't see the other person, but I could hear them shouting "Don't do it, calm down".
The man with the golf clubs gave him the count to three before he ended up running to the front of my house with the club. One of my neighbours called the police on the man as he was not only a danger to himself, but to others around him. The other person got away. However, it took 8 police officers to calm him down.
I was truly frightened that evening as I was scared as to whether he would smash our house windows or try to break in etc. Again, I had barely any sleep. There is insufficient street lighting on my way home from college too, this also makes me feel vulnerable. As I stated, my home is meant to be my sanctuary, but with endless accounts of episodes like this, it affects my daily life, my sleep and therefore my function on a daily basis.
A police spokesperson said: "We are aware of concerns relating to anti-social behaviour issues and drug-related crime in Central Park, Peterborough.
"To address this, patrols have been increased in the area by dedicated officers from the local neighbourhood teams and work is ongoing with the local council and other partner agencies.
"It is important that people continue to report any information they have about anti-social behaviour or drug-related crime to us, as well as any suspicious activity where they live.
"The more information we have, the better picture we can build and the more efficient we can be at targeting those responsible. Information can be reported via our web chat function here: https://bit.ly/2D9KFKH, online via www.cambs.police.uk/report or by calling 101. For more information on drugs, visit the force’s dedicated web page: www.cambs.police.uk/A-Z/Drug-dealing.”
A spokesperson for PCC said: "We are aware of some very serious concerns surrounding anti-social behaviour and crime in Central Park.
"In order to address the safety concern of our residents we have completed site visits with our local police force to advise on ways in which design and layout can discourage reported behaviour, and we will continue to work alongside them to do so.
"We encourage all our residents to continue to report any information regarding this anti-social behaviour and/or suspicious activity to the police, to ensure that they are have all the information necessary to address these incidents efficiently. "