Crime & Anti-Social Behaviour Meeting - 10th May 2017
See our full report on meeting below, and have a look at the presentation that was given to the Police by WoTTA. It paints a clear picture of the problems we are encountering in Walton. If you have further areas of concern, please GET IN TOUCH and let us know.
Walton says NO to crime!
The Walton-on-Thames Trading Alliance (WoTTA) organised a meeting between representatives from local business, sports groups, residents groups, Rydens Enterprise School (RES) and Walton Central Councillors to talk to the police about anti-social behaviour and crime in Walton.
Joanna Gordon, MD of WoTTA gave a comprehensive presentation setting out the issues being dealt with in the High Street, The Heart, Ashley Park and the Cricket Club, as well as in general across the town. A copy of the presentation is available on the WoTTA website: wotta.co.uk. She said, “The idea was to give the police - and also this wide representation of the community - a clear picture of what is happening, regularly in the town. That picture is one of increased crime, littering, abusive and threatening behaviour and malicious destruction of property. No one in the meeting - police, residents or businesses - wants this to be the story for Walton.” McDonalds staff also talked about regularly suffering threatening and abusive behaviour and how it affects their work life. They were not the only business to report this.
Attendees made it clear perception in Walton is that there is no police presence in the town and limited reaction to reporting of crimes and, therefore, no consequences. Many had given up on reporting crimes due to this. Several talked of having clear CCTV images of crimes which the police had not collected until chased. What can be done? Can Walton have a more visible police presence? Should a higher profile be given to cases that are prosecuted to act as a deterrent? Can the police prioritise getting CCTV images to their Youth Affairs Officer PC Phil Jebb to enable him to work quickly with schools in the area to identify offenders, allowing swift action to be taken?
The police - represented by Inspector Sarah Milligan, Sergeant Charlotte Chambers and PC Jo Fahey - explained that there are 14 police on duty at any one time for the whole of Elmbridge, with a wide area to cover but there are other resources they can call on in an emergency. In addition police funding is stretched with priority at present on Domestic Abuse, Child Abuse and Sexual Exploitation. However, they said that this meeting had helped highlight the problem in Walton and that were looking at reassigning some of those officers to be more visible in Walton, especially during the weekends when issues escalate. The police are keen to encourage people to report crimes as without this data they cannot support a call for more resources. They also need their partner organisations - Surrey County Council, Elmbridge Borough Council and specialist service delivery groups - to work with them to help facilitate change in the town. Following on from the second of two Visual Audit Tours of the town with WoTTA Mike Bessent - Crime Reduction Officer for Surrey Police - suggested various actions, including increasing Local Authority Enforcement Officer and Police patrols at the relevant times, possible infilling of the cricket pavilion and improvement in emptying and clearing litter as well as an increased number of litter bins.
Sgt Chambers explained the matter been on the JAG agenda - which is attended by partner agencies - and that police have been patrolling and engaging with young people in the town. From this they’ve learnt that there is a lack of facilities for them on weekends. Their wishlist includes free wifi, dry place to go/sit and a skate park. The police suggested it needed a youth outreach worker or similar at key times for more detailed engagement, as police aren’t the ideal agency to engage with the young people over what they want.
The police have also executed a drugs warrant locally, completed underage test purchasing at off licences and asked traders to be vigilant about selling age restricted products. PC Phil Jebb (Youth officer) has been liaising with local schools and YSS over issues. Anti-social behaviour letters and visits to parents are being made where appropriate, and any onward referrals made if some families require additional support or help. A dispersal order was authorised a few weekends ago after a number of damages reported in the area and an arrest made. CCTV is only good if the offender can be identified and the police have been working with local schools on this. If they can ID people they follow up with parents.
Last year WoTTA and Walton Cricket Club launched Walton Watchdog as a quick, easy way to report ASB and to let WoTTA know if a 101 crime has been reported. This was developed as a way for WoTTA to have a picture of crime in the town - wherever it’s occurring - and to be able to use that information to help get change. Today’s meeting is a direct result of that initiative and WoTTA would like people to continue to report there. Individuals or businesses should still call 101 first if it’s a serious crime, but WoTTA can report on to the council if it’s ASB.
Andy New, Senior Environmental Enforcement Officer for Elmbridge Borough Council discussed littering offenses in the town and the fact that on-the-spot fines could not be handed out to minors (those under 16). It was suggested that just the physical presence of some Litter Wardens and some warning signs could be an excellent deterrent. The question of Park Patrol officers was also raised, with the suggestion that a uniformed dog handler was also a good deterrent especially since a fair amount of our issues occur in parks. Perhaps patrols could be increased.
The police confirmed young people being stopped are from all secondary schools in the area. As a proactive approach Lee Cholewa & Steve Hart from RES are keen to work with WoTTA to get their students into the community, working in volunteer roles and on work experience to get them engaged and taking a leadership role amongst their peers coming from other areas. They are also happy to assist in identifying any offenders, ensuring there are consequences to criminal behaviour for any of their students.
The results of the meeting were:
EXTRA: What is amazing is that in the first weekend after the meeting - and police action being taken to have a more visual presence in the town - Mcdonald’s recorded the lowest number of groups of youths attending the premises, Walton Cricket Club - victims of ASB and criminal damage every weekend for months - noted that no damage took place, and WoTTA members themselves witnessed Police catching and tackling underage drinking.
An incredible range of people attended the meeting on 10th May from local businesses, sports groups, Rydens Enterprise School, Walton Central Councillors and residents groups!