“Recently there has been a lot of anti-social behaviour across the Borough and in particular in my ward of Sherrards.
Given the circumstances, why is it that the Council’s anti-social behaviour (ASB) unit has no-one who can respond on a Thursday evening for example or indeed any time outside council office hours, when much of the ASB is being committed outside those hours, ie in the evenings and weekends.
Surely a quick response ASB unit will certainly compliment and assist the Police who reportedly only have 4 officers on duty for the whole Borough at night. Will the Council seek to remedy and address the situation by providing more funds and ensure the welfare of its residents, given the current circumstances.
Will the executive member lobby the Police and Crime Commissioner to provide more officers in Welwyn Hatfield in the evenings and overnight?”
Councillor B.Sarson (Executive Member, Economic Development and Partnership) answered:-
“Thank you for your question Councillor Marsh.
Firstly, it should be noted that the issues raised are not just a local issue, but consistent with what is happening across Hertfordshire. The Council’s ASB team and the Police have recently received an increase in reports of ASB since lockdown in Sherrards area and more specifically in Oakdale and Summerdale. The reports show a gradual increase in gatherings of youths and young adults between the ages of 15-20 and at various times of the day and night.
The reports received are varied and include swearing, shouting, loud music, littering, drinking, drug use and vehicle nuisance. The Council does not in any way condone this behaviour and are committed to tackling it, working with the Police and other partner agencies to take appropriate enforcement action against the perpetrators where possible.
Our ASB Officer has regularly been liaising with Ward Councillors and residents in relation to these issues and has responded back to all concerned with regards to our actions, a summary of which I can confirm:
• The Council have increased Street Warden patrols to spot littering and report back on gatherings.
• The Police have increased patrols by Police Community Support Officers and Safer Neighbourhood Teams to engage and disperse as necessary.
• Council Officers and the Police are frequently sharing information and intelligence to try to identify who may be responsible.
• Regular updates have been provided to local residents
• Social media from Police around large gatherings and expected behaviours
The Council’s Community Safety Partnership are co-ordinating the management of the issues so all relevant agencies can work effectively to tackle this behaviour.
Residents are encouraged to continue to report their concerns directly to the Council to ensure that we get timely updates and to also contact the Police as and when the issues are occurring and this, I am pleased to advise has been happening.
The lockdown restrictions during the pandemic have meant that the usual diversionary activities that would ordinarily be available to this age group, are currently not operating. This is under constant review and where possible, these activities will be re-introduced only when it is safe to do so.
The Council’s ASB team operates largely within normal working hours and is not a first response service and there are no plans to change how this team operates. In addition, the ASB team do not have any powers of dispersal to tackle this types of issues; that is the remit of the Police.
The Council works extremely closely with the Police and they have provided the following information with regards to police resources across the borough - During covid there has been a clear change in the types of demand on policing. Where certain crime levels dropped others increased as well as demand to meet the needs of the public during lockdown increasing. In response to the Police bolstered their resources during the evenings particularly for the shift working between 3pm – 12am to engage, explain and encourage the public, and where necessary to enforce during the lockdown period. The police also bolstered their resources during the opening of licensed premises and shops under Operation Out. Once more there was a greater emphasis on afternoon / evening resources during this time.
As Executive Member for Regeneration Economic Development & Partnership, as much as I understand the concerns raised, I do not feel it is appropriate or necessary to lobby the Police and Crime Commissioner to provide more officers in Welwyn Hatfield in the evenings and overnight. I do however note the comments and concerns raised and trust I have provided the reassurance that these issues are being managed as robustly as possible through the effective Community Safety Partnership.”
Councillor Marsh in a supplementary question asked if there are no plans to increase the hours of the Council’s ASB unit or have more police in the Borough, surely that is not going to solve the problem. I appreciate that the youth that are committing these offences are not going to youth clubs or not having things to do because of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, to deal with the immediate problem, I do recommend and ask that the Executive do lobby the Police and Crime Commissioner as one way of increasing the number of Officers out of hours especially if the ASB department is not going to change.
Councillor Sarson answered that he does meet with the Police and Crime Commissioner on a fortnightly basis and said that the problem is a County problem. Our Police force is stretched to the limit and as crime not ASB is increasing, where do you want the police to go? Do you want them to look after the residents in the case of burglary and other crime or do you just want them to stop young people making a nuisance by swearing, loud music, littering, drinking and drug use etc.
(Note: Due to connectivity issues Councillor M.Larkins dropped out the meeting and was unable to re-join so was not present for the remainder of the meeting).