Community Safety Partnership
Presentation of the Community Safety Coordinator
The Community Safety Co-ordinator gave a presentation which reviewed the 2019/20 community safety priorities and considered the focus for 2020/21. An update was also provided on issues which had arisen during the Covid-19 lockdown period. It was noted that this item had been on the agenda for the previous meeting on 19 March, but this meeting had been cancelled due to the coronavirus. A copy of the presentation had been circulated to scrutiny members with the agenda.
Updating his presentation to take into account the effects of Covid-19, the Community Safety Co-ordinator raised the following points:
· Covid19 had significantly impacted the priorities identified for 2020-21 i.e., serious youth violence, management of the rough sleeper cohort and theft from vehicles. Lockdown restrictions had meant that rates of youth violence and theft from vehicles had fallen away, however the management of the rough sleeper cohort had taken on a new urgency as work had been undertaken to accommodate Watford’s homeless population.
· Watford had been unable to house any asylum seekers during lockdown. Three Rivers District Council (TRDC) had taken a number of people, who would subsequently be returned to London.
· Regular meetings and exchanges of information had been taking place with key stakeholders to ensure strategic consideration of all community safety issues. Levels of domestic abuse, anti-social behaviour (a footprint for more serious crime), race hate and neighbourhood disputes had been closely monitored as well as other indicators of societal strain e.g., excessive bonfires and fly-tipping.
· Crime levels:
o Around 26 crimes per day would normally be investigated, this had fallen to between 15-19 crimes per day during lockdown.
o Anti-social behaviour was down 5.5% since April or 80% down on this time last year, largely due to the absence of the night time economy and the fact that people were not out on the streets. Watford residents had largely abided by the lockdown restrictions. Elsewhere in the county, higher levels of antisocial behaviour had been reported.
o Race hate crimes had mainly arisen in shops where people were required to queue but did not want to socially distance. Some shop lifting had also been reported linked to rough sleepers.
o Neighbourhood disputes had halved.
o Domestic abuse reporting was beginning to increase as lockdown restrictions eased. There had been a recent spike in non-crime figures i.e., requests for police assistance, but no desire for formal action to be taken. These were mainly inter-familial disputes. The importance of the work carried out by Watford Womens Centre was underlined.
o Large numbers of youths were now congregating in parks across the county with associated drugs and disorder offences on the rise. Within Watford there had been an increase in complaints relating to anti-social behaviour in Cassiobury Park.
Following the Community Safety Coordinator’s report, the committee discussed:
· Long term strategy for rough sleepers in the town. It was reported that there were around 70 rough sleepers in the borough. During lockdown, these had mostly been accommodated in the Travelodge hotel. The council’s housing team considered that those who had been able to maintain their tenancy should be given an opportunity to access properties to remove them permanently from the streets. There remained a number of individuals who would not take advantage of this opportunity. For these, a more aggressive enforcement stance was likely in the future.
· Race cases following the Black Lives Mattermarch. Policing at the march on 6 June had been considered successful with a good rapport between police and the organisers. A number of people had contacted the police following Anthony Joshua’s speech which they felt incited racism. The police had not upheld the complaints. Some dissatisfaction had arisen as a consequence and some complaints were being taken further.
· Need to publicise work taken to counter anti-social behaviour in Cassiobury Park. The committee considered that the council should publicise measures taken by the police e.g., any arrests or convictions, to demonstrate the unacceptability of anti-social behaviour and drug taking in the town. It should also highlight the on-going action being taken by police to tackle crime in our parks and open spaces. Members also suggested that the park rangers could assist the police by taking a greater enforcement role in the future.
· Biggest challenge for community safety next year. The Community Safety Coordinator considered that youth knife crime was a significant area of concern which related to drug use.
The Chair thanked the Community Safety Coordinator for his detailed presentation.
that the report be noted.