Audience at PCC event hears working together is key to fighting anti-social behaviour
More than 100 people attended a crime summit hosted by Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne in Hastings this week.
The Listen Live: Partners Together event at Sussex Coast College Hastings on Wednesday, 27 September, focused on the work being done behind-the-scenes with younger people to tackle anti-social behaviour.
The audience, including local business owners, Hastings Youth Council members, not-for-profit organisations and residents, heard that the town had plenty to celebrate with its partnership work to fight the problem – but that more needed to be done.
This was the Police & Crime Commissioner’s second crime summit after a successful event in Brighton earlier this year which focused on elder exploitation as part of the PCC’s pledge to protect vulnerable residents and help victims.
The Hastings event, which tied in with another of the four priorities in Mrs Bourne’s Police and Crime Plan, to work with partners to keep Sussex safe, concentrated on anti-social behaviour.
“Members of the public have told me, through a poll on my website and also through engagement cards my team handed out throughout the summer, that anti-social behaviour is their greatest concern by a considerable amount,” explained Mrs Bourne. “It is clearly one of the issues that matters most to people: the majority registered some level of worry about anti-social behaviour, followed by road safety and the effects of drug and alcohol abuse.
“My second crime summit was an opportunity to help us reflect on what has worked and find ways for the public, businesses and police to work better together.
“We all need to be smarter with the funding that we have. As a commissioner of services for Sussex residents, I am using public money so we need to make sure that we spend it effectively.”
During a panel debate chaired by Laura Green, BCRP Crime Manager, about the components necessary to fight low-level crime, Ben Wyatt, from the Youth Offending Service, said a fully funded youth service to provide somewhere for young people to go would be vital to address the root of the issue.
Last year police and partners in Hastings, including Hastings Borough Council and East Sussex County Council's Youth Offending Service, adopted a two-pronged approach to address anti-social behaviour and develop opportunities for young people. Rather than criminalising these young people, a dedicated team of officers engaged with the main perpetrators and offered behaviour contracts and support in housing, education and employment, as well as active street game sessions delivered by Hastings Borough Council Leisure Services and funded by the Police & Crime Commissioner with funding sought for further youth programmes.
As a result officers saw fewer calls and there was increased confidence in the police and partners’ ability to successfully tackle entrenched antisocial behaviour.
The audience heard of the success of the town’s Streetgames project where sessions in Clyde Road are now attended by up to 25 young people; parents have described it as a welcoming community event where all generations can join in.
Chief Inspector Steve Curry, also on the panel, said that Sussex Police brought enforcement to the table “but a more balanced package of measures was also needed” and early intervention is key.
Mike Hepworth from Hastings Borough Council explained: “Partnership working is a way of life in Hastings, I am sure it is the same in Rother – we can’t solve these problems in isolation. We may find it harder to work in partnership but I think we are working very hard to make sure we maintain those links.”
Not criminalising under-18s where possible was high on the priorities voted on by the audience, as well as a general agreement that everyone has a responsibility to keep the town safe.
“We want to see young people thrive, we want to see young people fulfil their life’s ambitions and not make these unfortunate mistakes,” said C/Insp Curry.
Hastings Voluntary Action's director Steve Manwaring added: “We need to identify the infrastructure that people need and really invest in it.
“The more I engage with young people, the more optimistic I am about the future.”
Panel member Huda Caglayan, chair of Hastings Youth Council, stated that better education on what actually counts as anti-social behaviour was needed from a young age to help future generations make better informed decisions, whether that related to drugs, alcohol or how to “understand what circumstances we can get into”.
“If you tackle things at a young age appropriately, they will know if they are in a bad situation whereas a lot of the time they don’t realise until it is too late,” she said.