|A new dawn and a brighter tomorrow...|
Morag Irving reports...
A packed room for the Stanground, Park Farm, Fletton & Woodston Policing Panel meeting with around 50 residents from our neighbourhoods crammed into a side meeting room at the Fleet Centre. Our thanks to BBC Cambridgeshire and the Andie Harper Show (who earlier in the day during an item dealing with cuts in Police budgets) gave publicity to the time, date and place of this meeting. We also welcomed our neighbourhood firefighters, who half way through the meeting suddenly left to attend a 'shout' as all their personal pagers burst into life...
Well respected Police Inspector Matt Snow (who stepped in at very short notice for PS Simon Goldsmith, who was unable to attend), started by showing that crime figures in our area were down, a reduction of 16.6% against the same period last year. However some incidents of criminal damage (arson) were up with bins being left out for collection being the main targets. 14 burglaries had taken place, mostly as a result of back doors being left open.
PCSO’s reported on actions taken since the previous meeting. Although a priority had been set at the last meeting, patrols had been made at the play park area in Park Farm around the clock but no incidents of disturbance/ ASB had been encountered. Several minimotos and motor cycles had been reported and PFNW had submitted videos, enabling police to identify both owner and motorcycle.
The PCC Neighbourhood Team said some more section 106 money had been ‘found’ and would be used by the Youth Forum to commission the installation of some teenage ‘outdoor equipment’. It hoped that some public consultation will be conducted before the money is spent...
One issue then however dominated the meeting, so we will concentrate on it, if you would like any other information please contact Morag Irving, who took a contemperanious note of the meeting as it unfolded.
A group of residents from a street in Fletton/Woodston ( for operational reasons, the name of the street has been witheld) had arranged to attend the meeting together to express their deep concerns about an alleged violent dysfunctional family living in the locality.
STOP PRESS UPDATE A local newspaper, has 24 hours later, after we first broke the story, as their front page lead, now published the name of the family together with the number and name of the road involved. We will confirm the road is Oundle Road and that the single police priority action for this period will concentrate on this area (from the railway bridge onwards) in order to bring some form of closure to this long running situation. We still intend to withold the name and house number, as 12 children many aged under 16 are involved, but will be working with other agencies and BBC Radio Cambridgeshire to highlight progress.
Many alleged incidents of violence, criminality, offences against the person and extreme anti-social behaviour had been reported, they claimed, many times to both Police and PCC over a period of time and their lives were being blighted by the extreme behaviour presented.
One after another, some close to tears, rose to tell a shocked meeting how this had affected them.
The problems had been ongoing for two years and the collective residents were now clearly at their wits end and tempers through sheer frustration were starting to brim over. In this highly charged atmosphere, the local councillor, Police and council officials were all variously accused of not recognising the seriousness of the situation, a lack of action, and faced many searching questions.
It was explained by the officials that attempts were made to rehouse the family in question but for some reason the plan had fallen through at the last minute. It was clearly a meeting where straight talking was demanded and it became the order of the day.
It was also clear that the residents were deeply distressed by the perceived lack of action and to counter this a further working meeting was arranged for next week to kickstart solutions with the Police and PCC.
Park Farm Neighbourhood Watch has also agreed to help the residents form a working party and to devise a working strategy to make best use of the help and resources now offered and to ensure constant reporting back of progress is achieved without undue delay. A further meeting with the residents, PCC and Police is planned for October 14th 2011.
A suggestion by PFNW that the usual adoption of the three policing priorities should be dropped for this quarter and all available community, police and PCC resources should be applied to the single concentrated priority of resolving the extremely dire situation the residents found themselves in.
The objective would be to ensure the neighbourhood found a solution helping these people return to a normal life. In reality faced with that catalogue of violent anti social behaviour concentrated in a particular area, our own concerns about parking and speeding lapses paled into insignificance.
Councillors from neighbouring wards sensing the mood of the meeting also pledged their support. It is fair to say we all left the meeting horrified that such a series of institutional and organisational failures had been allowed to happen, but the entire meeting was determined that the situation the residents found themselves in would be fixed and that the entire community would come together to ensure that it does materialise and quickly.
A very difficult meeting to chair, (and listen to) but Chris York, guided us through the Agenda and wishing us all an early Merry Christmas declared the next meeting will be held on Tuesday 10th January 2012 at Mace Road Church Hall, Stanground 7pm ~ 9pm.
The way forward?
Judges get power to fast-track eviction of nasty neighbours
By Oliver Wright, Whitehall Editor The Independent
Judges are to be given new powers to fast-track the eviction of tenants who harass their neighbours.
Under present laws it can take more than a year to evict perpetrators of anti-social behaviour even if there is the clear evidence of abuse.
Today (Jan 2011) the Government will announce new rules giving judges the automatic power to order the eviction of tenants who have already received an anti-social behaviour order.
They would then be considered to have made themselves "intentionally homeless" and councils would have no obligation to re-house them.
But critics of the proposals warn that anti-social neighbours will merely be moved from house to house without addressing the root causes of their behaviour.
Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister, will also announce a joint working group with the Ministry of Justice to look at other ways of speeding up the lengthy eviction process.
There will also be a fund established to create a new team which will provide tenants and landlords with advice on eviction procedures.
Responding to reports of anti-social behaviour costs government agencies about £3.4bn a year and MPs from both political parties say it is one of the most distressing and intractable problems they face in constituency surgeries.
Measures to tackle anti-social behaviour were first introduced in the mid-1990s, and since then more and more powers and measures have been added.
ASBOs were first introduced in 1998. In 2003 the Home Office formed the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit with an annual budget of £25m. In September 2005, the Government announced the creation of the cross- government Respect Task Force to take forward the anti-social behaviour agenda and in January 2006 it published the Respect Action Plan.
Ministers believe this swifter process for evicting nuisance tenants will act as a deterrent.
Mr Shapps said: "Like many MPs one of things which crops up time and again in constituency surgeries is the difficulty communities have in evicting neighbours who blight their lives with anti-social behaviour.
"One of the things it shocked me as a minister to discover was that even if someone has already been given an ASBO that doesn't necessarily count as cause in eviction proceedings. I want to change this and give judges automatic grounds for eviction in such cases as well as speeding the eviction process up in general."
But Kay Boycott, the charity Shelter's director of campaigns, said it was a blunt tool. "Removing courts' discretionary powers and forcing them to evict people, despite possible extenuating circumstances, is a blunt tool to deal with a complicated problem," she said. "Something as critical as whether someone might be made homeless is surely too important to be left to the discretion of a landlord who may not be wholly impartial.
"Considering competing claims and the evidence involved in these complex cases should be left to the courts, particularly where cases involve tenants with a mental health problem, disability or where children are involved."