Blogspot: The Stow murder: Is it time for Harlow to have a long hard look at itself?

Politics / Tue 6th Sep 2016 pm30 08:06pm

THERE have been many words written about the death of Arkadiusz Jozwik in Harlow. This piece is a general discussion on a number of matters relating to the subject. You can read this and reject it or you can read it and perhaps reflect that it may shine a light on the troubles that have visited the town in August and September 2016.

At just after 8am on Sunday August 28th, our reporter received a text pointing to police activity in The Stow area. The bleary-eyed reporter drove down to The Stow and filmed what looked like a crime scene. Our films sit on youtube for all to see. As tents started to go up and forensics meticulously combed the area, we guessed that this was not good. You may recall that we were first on the scene for the “bouncy castle tragedy” as well.

We filed our story. Even for a little on-line newspaper, the story gained a lot of attention amongst our Harlow readers. The others did not cotton on for another day but that is another story.

Early on, Essex Police revealed that one of their lines of inquiry was that it may have been a hate crime. It is an option. They may have to refer it for political purposes. Essex Police come under a lot of scrutiny, especially by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI).

Once they did that, however, the nationals started to pour in. It happens. Yes, some come in to “white collar towns” like they are Desmond Morris/David Attenborough. Trust us, we also run YourThurrock.Com and so we see it a lot.

By Wednesday afternoon, everybody was in The Stow. Sky’s Martin Brunt, Newsnight’s John Sweeney, BBC’s Daniel Sanford to name just a few.

The article by Jamie Grierson in The Guardian wound local people up. It was mostly the headlines. “Town that feels forgotten” etc. The main body of the article was a series of testimonies from shopkeepers who said they had made complaints and they feel that no-one dealt with the problem. They may well be with. The person who tipped us off about the “incident in The Stow” has described the place as a “No-Go” area. And they are no shrining violet.

Here we return to the policing question. There was a time, when youths causing annoyance could lead to arrests, could lead to parents being referred to the social work, even through laws such as the Children and Young Persons Act. Somewhere along the line, that has stopped being used. That could be wound up in a bigger picture to do with keeping recorded crime down.

There has always been kids hanging around but now there has been a element of malice in them. People might say, oh just go to parts of London, Manchester, Marseille etc. Well, we could but we won’t. On this occasion, we are looking at Harlow and Harlow alone.

Over the past few months, people have felt that there is something about the youths cycling down the middle of First Avenue, doing that stupid wheelie thing. There is something about the mouthful of abuse that people received. There is example after example of low level criminality, from destroying lights in underpasses to smoking extremely strong dope that may be putting their world out of whack.

We do not know a single person who predicted this but there are lots of people who had a bad feeling about things.

There appeared to be a perfect storm a brewing. Juxtaposed to this is the deep deep cuts to police numbers. Some Conservative politicians have admitted that they want to see a massive reduction in spending on the state. That includes police officers, that includes council staff etc. That has meant that a town such as Harlow is left exposed. There are those that counter that by saying” “There seems to be plenty up on Junction 7 of the M11 when it is Operation Cashcow time”.

To us, you have an increasingly violent society allied with a growing number of crimes that have boomed in the twenty first century. To us there should be more police officers and not less. But before we know it we might be drifting off to privatisation agenda.

We could also be drifting into the dangerous world of a certain group of teenagers, who have a terrible feeling that there is not an awful to going for them. Yes, the days of going straight into jobs up at The Pinnacles are long gone. But there are many who can’t see the route map and may well have given up pretty early on. The headteachers will know what we are talking about. We may not be talking about low morals but more like low morale.

And so we come to the thorny question of whether Harlow is a racist town?

No. There are racists in this town as there are racists in Peterborough, Wick, Truro and Margate. The villagers were not awfully keen on the London types coming here in 1947. In the sixties, women at Key Glass wept when they heard that Afro-Caribbean women were being brought into clean. In the seventies, the Irish community had a real struggle to get the Four Provinces club open, feeling there was concern about “republican hotbed” etc. We go up to date, and people have looked at suspicion at the Muslim Centre.

But perhaps the most telling comment was made on Sky the day after the referendum. They came to Old Harlow and interviewed a woman in the cafe on the high street. She told Sky she voted “Leave’ as she “Just wanted to be amongst us” Funnily enough, a few days later, this reporter was giving a talk to the Year 7 at St Marks school. As the Anglo-Irish reporter looked across at the students whose heritage stretched from Ghana to Poland to Vietnam, he thought “This is….us”.

Is there link between a kid doing a wheelie on a bike and an act of homicide? Is there a link between a vote to leave the EU and a homicide? There are a number of individuals who feel it has “emboldened” them to speak as they find and tell people to go home etc. Whatever you think, the bottom line is that there are a lot of people, who do not feel welcome in this town.

A lot of Polish people in Harlow and elsewhere in the UK, who do not feel that they are being treated with respect. We think that Harlow resident, Eric Hind expressed it very well. Eric led the vigil on Saturday afternoon but before hand, he was quoted in The Guardian and he stressed that the hard working, brave Poles, making a new life for themselves, were not being treated with due respect.

Anyone who has been into Passmores Academy on a Saturday morning and seen the spirit of the Polish community or Polish families playing in Harlow Town Park or Poles praying together at Our Lady of Fatima, will see a fantastic community, who want to make a contribution to this town.

It may well take a lot to get the Polish community back with us. But a massive effort has to be made.

You get the feeling that we are going to look back on this passage of British political history and Britain will not come out of it very well.

You do feel that many people do need to have along hard look at themselves and start showing our fellow Harlow residents from Riga or Warsaw or Tirana a lot more respect. Some may think it might be too late. This is now not only a human tragedy but also a diplomatic incident. The Polish authorities have only just started.

And that takes us to the crime scene. We have yet to see if this is a hate crime. We have yet to see if a witness emerges who will “swear by almighty god” that they heard the word ‘Polish, Pole etc.”

Murders happen in Harlow. This reporter goes all the way back to May Chambers in Old Harlow in 1976, the tragic Stephen Edmonston in 1980. There was the murder of Estyna Blunnie and we cannot forget the unsolved murder of the Shakoor family.

We are never sure about being “proud of Harlow” This reporter lived away for 25 years and had a deep and abiding affection for his home town. Not sure what being proud means. Should he be proud of being 5ft 10?

But we do think there may need to be a deep examination of where Harlow is at in 2016. There are good community leaders to host it but it must not end up as a “Harlow’s lovely you know…” The South African truth and reconciliation commission did not end each day with “What a lovely view of Table Mountain….

Plans for Junction 7a of the M11 will continue. Public Health England will still go ahead with their £350 million investment. People are buying houses as they look to Harlow as another new frontier.

There was a rural Harlow in 1847; there was a new town Harlow in 1947 and hopefully, there could be a gleaming, enterprising Harlow Garden City of 2047. But perhaps it can only achieve that if it has a good long hard look at itself in 2016 and roots out the problems that are holding it back.

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1 Comment for Blogspot: The Stow murder: Is it time for Harlow to have a long hard look at itself?:

2016-09-09 14:44:56

It's a very good blog peace and raises many fair questions. We need to remember a number of things. We are a small compact town 3.5 miles across and the smallest District Council in the Country. We have some areas of high deprivation. We have issues with ASB, Housing shortage and Unemployment - often not helped by skills shortages. We are often the forgotten District at County Hall as we have tended to send Labour Councillors to a Tory led Council, meaning the Leadership aren't too bothered about the "Socialist Republic of Harlow". We get less money, and less facilities and services as a result - which is just plain wrong and playing politics with peoples lives. We have had isolated issues with racism - such as the formation of the vile Combat 18 organization. People see and believe skilled Eastern Europeans are getting jobs and housing and feel passed over - whether that is the truth or not. Similarly our European friends are happy to stick together and mixing and integration is far from what it could be. The political left accuse people who raise valid concerns about high immigration levels as racist and xenophobic, when all they want is controlled levels and a fair go. People get annoyed by insults and being unfairly labelled - and justifiably so. Crime is on the rise as our Law Enforcement is absent from our streets, and those in command say Community Policing is old hat, when it's what our communities want most. What we have more than anything else is a disconnect and communication breakdown between those in power and the communities they serve. Politicians need to stop pretending to have all the answers, and communities need to stop expecting them to have them. The best communities are always where people work together irrespective of views, colour, creed, religion or rosette colour. If people feel their current leaders are letting them down, they need to vote for someone or something else. Despite everything being against it - our country voted Leave, and 68.1% did so in Harlow. We need to understand why, not throw cheap insults if we're in the other 31.9%. I may be a child of Thatcher - but I have also disagreed with her on one thing - There is such a thing as Society - it just needs a bit of work from every single one of us to make it the best it can be for all.

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