- Posted by: Canterbury Labour
- Category: News
More than 120 people packed into the Umbrella Centre this Friday afternoon for a public meeting on the problem of anti social behaviour in town. In the past couple of weeks there has been a worrying spike in incidents involving the intimidation of residents, breaking of doors, egging of cars and violence between children. There has simultaneously been an increase in the grafitting of, and theft from, beach huts.
The meeting was chaired by Cllr Chris Cornell and involved a question-and-answer session with Inspector Paul Stoner (Canterbury District Community Safety Lead), Anna Morris (Kent County Council Youth Hub Manager) and Lacey Dixon (Community Safety Officer at Canterbury City Council); also present were Sargeant Johnathan Sheehan of the Coastal Policing Team, PC Chris Greehan (the areas ASB lead) and Matthew Young (the Council’s Port and Foreshore Services Manager).
Inspector Stoner explained that the Chief Constable’s focus on violence against women and girls, violent and sexual crimes meant that the majority of the districts resources were rightly focused on the centre of Canterbury and its night time economy. He acknowledged that crime rates in Whitstable were historically lower than Herne Bay and Canterbury (2407 crimes reported in the last year) but that the recent spate of anti social behaviour was unacceptable and under-reported.
Kent Police encouraged and reminded everyone of the importance of reporting crime as a means to ensure further resources are deployed in the area. He noted that reporting graffiti or a theft from your beach hut to the council doesn’t count as a report to the police. To illustrate this they noted that they have only had 40 reports of graffiti related to tag ‘Paedo Bau’ in the last year – despite being aware of over 60 current tags reported this week by one local resident. Of the 11 beach huts broken into last week, only 4 owners had reported a theft.Community Meeting presentation 10.02.23
He encouraged residents wanting to be greater informed about policing operations and regular engagement sessions to sign up My Community Voice, a two way communication tool.
Regarding the recent spate of ASB in town he outlined the Police’s current strategy which involves:
- The reallocation of 4 City Centre PC’s from Canterbury over the next month. These officers will be patrolling 7 days a week including late into the evening
- Deploying the Community Policing Team (1 Sergeant and 4 PCSO’s) to Whitstable to be a proactive presence
- Securing additional funding through the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner to pay for additional staff overtime. Dog units will also be available
- Concentrating resources on a small group of ten offenders – all crimes involving these ten are now being coordinated by a single officer.
He was able to note that of the ten main offenders, two had recently been arrested and charged. The first offender had been brought in front of court on drugs offences, was linked to 45 cases of theft and had broken police and court bail. The conditions of his current bail prevent him being in town for large parts of the day. A second offender had been arrested the morning of the meeting for blackmail and theft, a violent incident involving another young person – they expected him to be bailed to local authority care. Two people suspected of damage to residential properties were due for questioning this week.
Policing operations have recently involved the use of unmarked cars with one resident noting their recent success in Victoria Street Car Park.
This additional resource is on top of the Town Centre Constable who they acknowledged was subject to a Community Policing Review. Labour councillors have recently engaged with the Area Inspector as part of this review, highlighting the concern of local traders about deploying existing resources over wider areas.
Inspector Stoner was able to confirm that he expects the new review to see additional resources in town although the extent of this wont be known until June 2023 and become apparent until Summer 2024 after additional officers have been recruited and trained. He acknowledged that the scale of this review had seen many PCSO’s unfortunately leave the job.
On Beach Hut theft, Kent Police have changed their policy to allow crime scene investigators to attend break ins after the recent spate. They are secured a small amount of funding for some solar powered cameras which will be made available through Tankerton Beach Hut Association – they are recommending battery alarms which send you a text message when a crime in progress. These alarms are available from Amazon – they noted that residents are allowed to record public areas on CCTV and are not regulated under RIPA like the police.
Other proactive interventions led by the council include:
- A Test Purchasing Initiative with Trading Standards to check whether people were serving underage. All but one local tested premise passed.
- The offer of £500 for any intelligence linked to the recent graffiti problem on the seafront. Reports can be made by CrimeStoppers or by email to [email protected]
- Commissioning a local inclusive sport provider to concentrate on diversionary activities
People were encouraged to report concerns about licensed premises to their local councillor or [email protected]. There was some discussion about the proposed extension of Weatherspoon’s on Oxford Street. Residents can object to his application through the council’s planning portal (the application will be dealt with as a planning matter as it elates to the removal of a planning covenant put in place when the building was converted from a bingo hall to a bar). Local Labour councillors have already asked for this to be debated at a public meeting following resident concerns.
Under questioning it was identified that:
- More clarification needs to be sought on how the council (as a land owner) report crimes and how information on beach hut owners can be passed to the police. The council do contact all victims of crime involving beach huts when they hear of it and encourage them to report. However they have no list of owners at West Beach and by the East Quay which are on private land.
- Clarification needs to be sought about whether the camera at Victoria Street Car Park is working
- Parents of children involved in incidents on school premises can report them as crimes although they the police have a policy of encouraging schools to do this
- The council should look at proactively improving the public realm not just removing or restricting access to areas frequented by people causing trouble i.e. West Cliff Benches and the Green Shelters on West Beach.
- Additional resources for the summer are being planned. This would see the Inspector cancel rest days over to establish a greater presence. The use of dispersal orders is being kept continually under review but needs to be proportionate and evidence led. Inspector Stoner indicated he had implemented two such orders within the last six weeks and was willing to do so again.
The meeting concluded with an acknowledgement that whilst the incidents of egging cars and kicking in doors weren’t high tariff offences they were no longer being dealt with as isolated incidents and that the wider picture of Anti Social Behaviour was being tackled. The police characterised their response as ‘cutting the head off the snake’ and we hope that it works.
Local Labour councillors will be further liasing with police on a number of specific cases highlighted at the meeting and will try to arrange a follow up meeting in a few months.