Readers' letter: Anti social behaviour is far from just a problem in Hexthorpe

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Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 10:00 am
DMBC and South Yorkshire Police have favoured a PSPO for Hexthorpe

I really feel for the people of Hexthorpe, whose difficulties concerning anti-social behaviour (ASB) were highlighted in the FreePress last week.

However, I feel compelled to sound a note of caution about what residents, DMBC and South Yorkshire Police think are the causes and solutions to the problem.

It is wrong to pretend that ASB is a peculiarly Hexthorpe problem. The decimation of former industrial heartlands is a global problem. Wealth is flowing from communities like Doncaster to the bankers and financiers, from the poor to the rich. It is a feature of global capitalism.

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US journalist Chris Hedges has written of “forgotten zones” where Americans are trapped in an endless cycle of “poverty, powerlessness and despair.” Sounds familiar?

The Public Space Protection Orders for Hexthorpe favoured by DMBC cannot prevent the decay caused by a system that seems to serve only those with wealth and power. PSPOs are probably well-intentioned, but they boil down to “watch thy neighbour, shop thy neighbour.” It stokes tension, breeds resentment and leads to frustration.

The police obviously cannot cope. ASB exists across Doncaster, and Police response times for serious crimes are woeful, as I know from personal experience. Kids playing loud music are not a high priority for the police, and we should be honest about that.

Working class communities can turn their despair into hope if they come together to fight for a better future. This is happening around the world too. This forces communal despair and frustration out and confronts the politicians and the system they serve. Internalising the problems breeds hatred and division.

Everyone seems to agree education is a priority. However, community education comes through activism, not lectures on the rules of a PSPO by DMBC and the police. This includes education about how the system of financialised local government works, its priorities and blind spots.

The role of Labour councillors, many of whom I like and respect, should be to bring together the forces of the Labour movement, trade unionists and campaigners, and thrash out a workable strategy for Doncaster. Denying the reality of our decaying communities needs to end.

John Westmoreland

Hatfield Woodhouse, Doncaster