LAST week, I received a very upsetting letter from a woman in my constituency. A dog had attacked and killed her pet cat. The dog appears to have deliberately been provoked and set onto the cat by a group of young people nearby. It was a wanton act of malice and cruelty.
I do understand how utterly devastated she must be, seeing her beloved pet so senselessly mauled. Regular readers of this paper may recall that, some years ago, a similar incident happened to my tiny Yorkshire terrier, Trudy.
Trudy was attacked by a pit bull that grabbed her and crushed her in its jaws. She was pulled from its mouth and I rushed her to the veterinary hospital. She was lucky to survive, needing over 100 stitches in her tiny body.
When Trudy was attacked, I called the police; after all, the dog was not under proper control and it could have been a child that was attacked that day. The police refused to respond. Now thankfully they do take incidents like this far more seriously.
I contacted the local police, on behalf of my constituent, to see if it is possible to identify who it was that set their dog on this defenceless family pet. I want to get some action and I know the police will take this seriously.
This change of policy is due in part to the introduction of the Safer Neighbourhoods Police Teams that have covered our borough since 2006. These teams of police officers are responsible for patrolling a small geographic area so they get to know it really well, and are therefore better equipped to deal with its problems.
Some of these problems can seem small, but are in fact important to the way we feel about our own safety.
My car window was smashed two weeks ago.
As I stood outside waiting for it to be fixed, I discovered from my neighbours that there had been two further windows broken in my street – this time of my neighbour’s homes.
I only lost a car window, but it affected my sense of safety. How much more unnerved were my neighbours who had their front windows put in?
My local Safer Neighbourhood Team spoke to me about my car, and my neighbours about their windows. This Saturday, they stopped me in the street to let me know that they have identified a group of young people who are likely to be responsible. The police are clamping down, they know who the ringleader is and are dealing with him.
I don't like writing columns that suggest our young people are bad – or heaven forbid encourage people to feel more unsafe in their homes or on our streets. Young people are often unfairly blamed for crime, and as I have often said, they are more likely to be the victims than perpetrators.
The vast majority of our young people are engaged and energetic, and get involved positively in their communities. When I meet them, they ask me questions about Gaza, or climate change, or Darfur. They push and push me on some of the more important issues facing our world today, often on issues that some of us adults have put towards the back of our minds.
And yet - there are a tiny number in our community, young and old alike, whose actions can have a devastating impact on us all if nothing is done to stop them.