Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Public policy: Are we safer now?

Financial Times
July 17, 2013

Five years ago, residents of Heathfield Crescent in the northeastern English city of Newcastle were woken by an exploding petrol bomb. A feud was raging once again on the Cowgate estate, an area notorious for violent altercations where police had logged 632 thefts, attacks and other crimes in just 12 months.

Cowgate’s street names, such as Whitethorn, Deepdale and Meadowdale, evoke the beauty of the Northumbrian countryside, but in reality the estate is a drab, claustrophobic group of red-brick houses. The closure of the school, the estate’s garage and its grocery shops give the place a forgotten feel. Desperate families sometimes stole presents from under their neighbours’ Christmas trees, and disputes between residents would quickly turn rough.

Yet there is reason for optimism at Cowgate. Order has been restored on the estate and crime in and around Newcastle is down 54 per cent over the past decade. Lindsay Boyle, 35, has lived in Cowgate all her life, and says she never expected such a dramatic change.

“It had the reputation where nobody wanted to come and live here and when people even heard the name Cowgate they were scared off,” she says. “One bad family would move into an area and that would start to bring the whole street down.”

Today, with “barely any crime”, everything is different. “There’s actually a waiting list for people to come here,” Ms Boyle says. Her parents, who had moved off the estate decades ago when it became too edgy, have even moved back to spend their retirement there.