Crime is a big issue for some in this general election

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On that occasion, thieves stole two bottles of vodka and the Christmas tip jar. Sarah doesn’t know of anyone being prosecuted for the thefts or damage at her bar, and on some occasions no longer claims on her insurance. She says crime is her number one issue this election.

“One day they came in and nicked my KP Nuts. Nuts! It’s horrendous.” She says she has started sleeping in the bar overnight sometimes, and has turned to Facebook to try to solve the crimes, and even offered rewards with her own money.

“Next time do I even ring the police? Do I just leave it? It can’t keep going on like this.”

Later I meet Meela outside her home, chatting with neighbours in Netherfields.

“As soon as I’m out of this area I’m a different person,” Meela says. “As soon as I get to the roundabout coming in, I get anxiety.”

I ask her whether politics can fix this. No, she says. “It’s the drugs, people need to knock down the drugs.”

In just England alone there is a lot to fix. An independent review conducted for the government by Dame Carol Black in 2021 said drug misuse costs society almost £20bn a year, which is close to £350 for every man, woman, and child in England.

That means even if you’ll never visit Middlesbrough in your life, illegal drug dealing does impact on your life. When public spending on services we all need is tight, money spent on drug misuse is cash that is missing from other vital services.

Back in North Ormesby I wondered what this general election means to the teenage drug dealers, who tell me they are old enough to vote. One says they don’t know what it is all about. I also ask, if politicians say they want to crack down on drug dealing, what would you say to them? “Catch me if you can,” one says, and then they all start to laugh.

Is this all they want from life I ask? They are after all just teenagers. One of them takes time to answer. “I don’t want to sell drugs, for the rest of my life, no one does, it’s just how it is,” he says.

Nationally, crime is not the biggest election issue. Concerns around the cost of living, the NHS, the economy and immigration all poll higher.

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But in places like North Ormesby and Netherfields concerns about crime are very real. People are desperate for help. Before we leave, Tony tells me: “Whoever wins the next election needs to step up to the mark, this cannot continue.”

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