Private security firm called in to tackle village’s anti-social behaviour and ‘intimidating’ teenagers
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Intimidating teenagers in an ‘idyllic’ Essex village led councillors to hire a private security firm to replace policemen on their streets this summer.
Writtle Parish council paid contractors S-Type Security to patrol their green and open spaces at random to prevent the anti-social behaviour uniformed police did not have time to deal with.
Chris Hibbit, chairman of Writtle Parish Council, said: “We get a lot of anti-social behaviour in the village that does not factor into police figures.
“We had requested some special constables to patrol Writtle but that fell flat, so we did this as an experiment over the summer holidays.
“We have two green open spaces, a skate park and two play areas, but teenagers hanging around these have intimidated younger children away - those places were going to waste.
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“The parents felt the young children weren’t getting a look in.”
The security company made random patrols to the identified hotspots three times a day, every day during the summer holidays.
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Mr Hibbit said each day cost £45 to the council - making an estimated total over the six weeks of £1,890.
“The trial finished on September 12 and we are awaiting the findings of the security companies report, which will be delivered to the rest of the parish council before our next meeting,” he added.
Parishioners did not take well to the spending of public funds on work typically carried out by the police.
Mr Hibbit said: “We expected a range of comments when we took the decision.
“We were accused of being a fascist organisation.”
He continued: “Writtle is quite an idyllic village - we’re not talking about major crimes being committed.
“It was in response to the sum total of all the anti-social behaviour we were experiencing.
“The police have a problem with their funding and the days of patrolling villages have come to a halt.”
On the proposed plans, he added: “We are very keen for the Neighbourhood Watch scheme to be reinvigorated.
“From the meeting that was held yesterday there’s a strong case for reviving this kind of thing.
“If we can look after our village through conventional means we would consider it.”
The security firms report is due next week, with the following parish council meeting due in October.
Yesterday, Chief Insp Gerry Parker, district commander for Chelmsford, met with parish councillors to discuss policing operations for the area.
The meeting took place in response to reports the parish council has been using a private company to patrol the village.
Chief Insp Parker said: “Our discussions were open, honest and very positive and we will be taking steps to help reinvigorate Neighbourhood Watch in Writtle while trying to support the community through our Active Citizens and Special Constabulary programmes.
“Today, parish councillors agreed that its trial with the private firm will be reviewed. They accepted that no further progression towards longer term use of private security patrols will be considered without wider public, partnership and police consultation.
“The meeting was very productive and I thank parish councillors for giving me the opportunity to listen to their concerns and agreeing to work more closely moving forward.
“We also discussed issues about crime and anti-social and I provided assurances that the village is safe, with recent statistics showing that reported crime had fallen by 16 per cent over a year from August 2017. This bucks the national trend of an increase in reported crime.
“My officers are regularly patrolling all areas of my district and I look forward to continue working closely Chelmsford City Council and parish and town councils to create safer communities.
“An improved Neighbourhood Watch scheme, closer working relationships and the adoption of other public engagement strategies will bring many benefits. With officers, councillors , partners and the community of Writtle on board, crime reduction, prevention and reassurance will only get better.”
In the New Year Chelmsford district will benefit from 12 new officers following the announcement earlier this year that 150 new police officer posts will be created in 2019.