Councillor Nancy Warne, Cabinet Member for Community Safety introduced Terry Hughes, Community Safety Manager who presented the report set out in the agenda.
Questions from Members included the following:
- There was currently no active County Lines in Tunbridge Wells.
- Intelligence on County Lines was being collected all the time and there was currently nothing coming through. However, County Lines was a specific type of drug dealing. Other types of drug dealing was taking place throughout the district.
- For the purposes of the report, the category for Complex and High needs cases related to domestic abuse.
- Further details regarding the number of slight road traffic injuries in Goudhurst and Lamberhurst would be forwarded after the meeting.
- At present TWBC didn’t have the resources available to go into schools to talk about race/hate crime.
- The police used to have a team of schools’ officers, but this had now been put on hold due to other competing priorities.
- As from June 2023, a Child Centre Policing Team would take on some of this work, looking at the issue of hate crime and getting into schools to see what could be done to educate people around what was acceptable and what was not acceptable.
- It was very important that hate crime was reported and that there was a specialist team available to provide advice and support.
- The Near Miss Register wasn’t advertised regularly but this was something the Community Safety Unit could consider.
- The Near Miss Register had been ‘live’ for about 2 years and to date about 250 incidents had been reported.
- Going forward, consideration was being given to the format of the Near Miss Register form. A form of multiple choice was being considered as the preferred format.
- Further work to analyse the data would be undertaken, which would be presented at a later date.
- Remedial action at specific sites where accidents had occurred were a matter for Kent County Council (KCC). KCC had their own set of criteria that they used to determine what if any action was taken.
- The data from the Near Miss Register might be something that KCC could use in the future.
- Tackling anti-social behaviour in parks was likely to be an issue this year as there was a lack of resources available to carry out this work.
- Currently, 12 evenings at 4 hours per evening had been allocated for security officers to undertake some engagement work with retailers and members of the public. Going forward, consideration would need to be given to an action plan for open spaces.
- There wasn’t a breakdown of figures for hate crime. However, reports of hate crime were looked at on a daily basis to see if there were any traits or trends. At present there were no particular trends.
- Residents should be actively encouraged to report instances of anti-social behaviour. The level of response by the police would however depend on priorities.
- There was concern that the efforts of voluntary Speedwatch teams were being frustrated and some were now being disbanded due to the lack of support from the police.
- Correspondence from residents regarding speeding matters were taken seriously and officers would be sent out to assess the area and if necessary undertake some enforcement.
- The Violence Against Women and Girls Initiative (VAWG) had not yet been set up. The Community Safety Managers in West Kent would be getting together later in March to take this forward.
- Community Safety Officers and the Police Anti-Social Officer were able to visit schools to both educate against anti-social behaviour and to act where occurrences had taken place. If Members wanted to speak about a particular school, they can contact the Community Safety Unit.
- Female gender mutilation came under the domestic abuse priority. DAVSS (Domestic Abuse Volunteer Support Services) had undertaken a number of workshops for GPs, Schools and Community Leaders.
- The level of reporting to the police was dependent on the confidence of residents in the police. The police were keen to encourage residents to report incidents. They received and acted on a large of number of reports about neighbourhood issues.
- It was noted that incidents were not always as they first appeared. Serious allegations e.g. attempted child abduction cases should always be reported to the police to be investigated.
- The Near Miss Register could be better promoted, including in schools.
- Anecdotally, there had been an increase in the number of cases of anti-social behaviour being attributed to young girls.
- A considerable amount of investment was required to install and run speed cameras. Speed Cameras were expensive to buy, with the additional cost of maintaining them (which could be considerable as many units were vandalised).
- From June 2023, more police officers would be joining the Community Safety Unit who would be trained in speed enforcement.
- The Safety Camera Partnerships were responsible for installing and managing speed cameras. The decision to install a speed camera was based on a strict set of criteria and subject to the level of funding available.
- Road safety, including speeding was very important, but there had to be a balance with the many other priorities the police had. But they were keen to work with Speedwatch volunteers and certainly didn’t want to see this important work be disbanded.
- Police statistics related to particular crimes and associated conviction rates could be obtained and this could be broken down per Ward if this would be useful.
- Details related to Near Miss Data in the rural areas (split from Town Centre) was not immediately available and would be reverted after the meeting.
Comments in debate included:
- Information related to why speed cameras were so expensive would be useful to Members to better understand why they were not installed in more places.
- It was suggested that up to 80% of road accidents were not reported as there was no confidence that any action would be taken. There was concern that the crash data was therefore not representative of the number of accidents that actually occurred.
- The Committee could recommend developing a strategy around the issue of speed cameras.
- The Committee could ask officers for a report on speed camera enforcement.
- Speed cameras were linked to the number of fatalities at a given site.
- Inappropriate speeds was a major issue and something the Committee should be putting pressure to do something about.
- It was agreed that an invitation should be sent to the Safety Camera Partnership to attend a future meeting (June meeting if possible). And to be included on the Work Programme for 2023-24.
- There was a tendency to over engineer school crossings. Perhaps a suggestion should be made to KCC to ask them to rethink how they approached school crossings.
- It should be recognised that any action would be related to the level of resources and funding available.
- There remained concern that the level of reporting had dropped as the level of confidence in the police had dropped.
1. That the Community Safety Partnership be supported; and
2. That the following actions be taken forward:
a. That future reports include information related to numbers of arrests, prosecution and conviction rates (to be broken down per Ward).
b. An invitation be sent to the Safety Camera Partnership to attend (ideally) the next Overview and Scrutiny Meeting (June 2023). Or if not June, to a future meeting. And for this item to be added to the OSC Work Programme.