CIVIC leaders and police have hit out at claims that Wisbech is being run by a “Baltic Mafia”.
The town has found itself on the receiving end of yet more bad press, with an article in Saturday’s Daily Mail painting a picture of Wisbech which MP Steve Barclay branded as “disappointing”.
The article comes in the wake of investigations into the murder of 17-year-old Latvian Alisa Dmitrijeva who lived in Wisbech for a short time.
The article alleged Alisa, whose body was found on remote farmland on the Queen’s Sandringham estate on New Year’s Day, was involved in drugs after moving to the UK.
There is speculation she got caught up with Baltic drug and crime gangs and may have died from an overdose.
But police have said this week they do not want these allegations to cloud people’s judgement and stop them from coming forward.
DCI Jes Fry, who is in charge of the investigation, said initial tests on Alisa’s body did not detect drugs but more testing will be carried out.
The murder hunt is one of many recent events that have thrown the national spotlight on the ever-increasing Eastern European community in the town.
The article alleged Baltic gangs are taking over towns such as Wisbech, terrifying local residents and ensnaring girls such as Alisa.
However, Fenland Area Inspector Robin Sissons has dismissed claims that residents are living in fear. When he brought up the subject of the migrant community at a recent community forum, he said not one person said they felt more unsafe now than they did before.
Insp Sissons, who has been a Fenland police officer for several years, including the town’s inspector from 2008-9, said: “I’ve just returned and it’s the same old characters in Wisbech. There is still community spirit here and lots of people who want to make it a better place. Yes, there are places that aren’t as great, but they are everywhere. Wisbech is not as bad as some of the places I have policed.”
Police have released figures from a week’s crackdown on crime, which saw 25 people arrested for mostly violent crimes. Of those, just four were Eastern Europeans for offences of threats to kill, actual bodily harm and grievous bodily harm (for full story, see page 5).
Mayor Jonathan Farmer said the numbers of Eastern Europeans in Wisbech had been exaggerated in the article – only a fifth of the population is Eastern European according to the electoral register.
He said: “This article seems to have been prompted by one or two people with a racial axe to grind, taking a pop at the Eastern Europeans and being disloyal to their town.”
MP Steve Barclay said he was “disappointed” when he saw the article and has just released a new “positive action” plan with his hopes for Wisbech and what can be accomplished.
• Tell us what you think. Are you living in fear? Or has it all been blown out of proportion? Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
• For the latest on the hunt for Alisa’s killer, see page 11.