Anti-social behaviour purge launched

By Danielle NuttallCrime CorrespondentTOWNS across East Anglia are hoping to follow the lead of a groundbreaking policing project to quell anti-social behaviour in three communities.

By Danielle Nuttall

Crime Correspondent

TOWNS across East Anglia are hoping to follow the lead of a groundbreaking policing project to quell anti-social behaviour in three communities.

The community reassurance team, being spearheaded by Suffolk police, aims to crackdown on crime and disorder in the Gainsborough, Holywells and Priory Heath areas of Ipswich.

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It was set up in response to escalating levels of anti-social behaviour and comprises a dedicated group of police officers, special constables, community support officers and council staff.

Police chiefs hope the new project will boost public feelings of safety by returning to "neighbourhood-style policing" with increased visibility.

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It is thought if the project is successful in Ipswich, a similar approach could be rolled out to other areas suffering similar problems with anti-social behaviour.

Woodbridge mayor Neil Montgomery said he would welcome a similar approach to target unruly youths in the town.

The town is already taking steps to tackle the problem by developing a project with Suffolk Coastal District Council to build a skateboarding park for youngsters.

"I must say I would welcome it as anything police can do to reassure the public is a good thing. Anything to increase visibility of the police on the streets is bound to reassure," said Mr Montgomery.

"We understand the financial constraints the police are under and the difficulties in being at the right place in the right time. The more visibility there is, the more anti-social behaviour will be controlled."

Hadleigh mayor Peter Matthews also praised the idea of the project and said it would be an approach that would be welcomed in the town.

"I think from a psychological point of view people like to see police out and about as it gives them a feeling of security. Anything that gives a better understanding of policing for the general public is a good idea," he added.

Chief Superintendent Geoff Munns, Suffolk police's southern area commander, said Ipswich accounted for 30% of Suffolk's crimes and had seen the introduction of a number of initiatives to fight offending, including the arrival in October of community support officers.

In the past seven years, the number of licensed premises in the town has doubled from 67 to 140, bringing with it a surge in alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour.

Mr Munns said: "We are very good at intelligence-led policing, investigating serious crime, taking out local persistent offenders, crack dealers and the like.

"But we do need to get better, together with partner agencies, at targeting those quality of life issues which are important to the well being of local residents.

"Our partnership approach to delivering the new community reassurance team for south-east Ipswich is evidence of this.

"We will never have enough officers to be seen on every street corner or to keep everyone happy all of the time, but we have been determined to prioritise our efforts on those issues which we feel are important for Ipswich."

The new team, which is made up of three community support officers and six police officers, will be based at the Robert Milne Centre in Felixstowe Road and will be assisted by staff from other agencies when needed.

"Over recent years the changing profile of Ipswich might be seen as something of a tangible shift from county town to thriving urban environment," said Mr Munns.

"It's now experiencing most of the issues experienced by large towns and cities - specifically in terms of the demand on its local police and quality of life issues for its local communities.

"In line with trends nationally, some residential areas of Ipswich are now experiencing anti-social behaviour - low-level disorder at levels which are undermining communities of quality life and their confidence in our ability to tackle it."

He added: "The new team is made up of staff who want to make a difference. I want them to get close to local residents and businesses - who have told us that they want a better service and are prepared to support this new initiative.

"After all, it will need all of us, including the community, to pull together if real improvements are to be secured.

"This new approach is not about just asking people what they want and giving it to them. People will always have different priorities, but it is about taking greater account of local community concerns when making day-to-day decisions about police and other agency activity."

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