More police presence needed to tackle anti-social behaviour in Northampton say neighbourhood wardens

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Neighbourhood wardens need more support from the police force in tackling anti-social behaviour according to a report set to go to the borough council tomorrow.

The council launched a scrutiny panel aimed at tackling street drinking, aggressive behaviour and drug use in Northampton in July after it emerged there had been more than 10,000 reports of anti-social behaviour made to police in the past year.

As part of its research, the council put a number of questions to “expert advisors” asking how to best deal with known hotspots and such as Castle and St Crispins wards.

However a response on behalf of the council’s neighbourhood warden services has said a lack of police presence on the streets is leaving staff to deal with large numbers of incidents.

The response states: “With the growing problem of rough sleepers, drinkers, beggars and people taking illegal highs within the town centre there does need to be a better presence of police officers, not PCSOs, as they only have the same powers as the Neighbourhood Wardens and Park Rangers.”

Neighbourhood wardens, which are required to act as an “ambassador for their local area” and improve neighbourhoods according to their job description, have some powers to issue fixed penalties to those committing anti-social acts.

But the response to the scrutiny panel suggests much of the warden service’s time is being taken up dealing with louts.

It continues to say: “The neighbourhood wardens, more so than the park rangers, in the town centre do come into contact on a daily basis with street beggars, drinkers and rough sleepers.

“These daily encounters do consume much of the neighbourhood wardens’ time, when they could be carrying out other duties.”

And it adds: “If the police are going to have a less of a high profile role in our communities, then maybe we should increase the number of neighbourhood wardens and park rangers to help compensate this.”

The scrutiny panel, which is attended by a cross party committee of 10 councillors, is set to meet at 6pm on Thursday, October 8, in the Jeffrey Room of the Guildhall.

Northamptonshire Police says “visible policing remains one of the highest priorities for the people of Northamptonshire,” but said it is a “significant challenge with the continued pressure on public spending.”

Last year Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commisioner Adam Simmonds launched a bid to “enhance” the work of the force’s 1,220 Police Officers by recruiting 900 additional volunteer special constables.

Northampton Commander Superintendent Mark Evans, said: “We are aware of the review being conducted by Northampton Borough Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and have seen the comments shared as part of that review.

“We have a dedicated town centre team and we are currently looking at ways of developing an improved partnership arrangement in this area.

“Our officers work closely with the council, particularly as part of the anti-social behaviour unit, tackling those people who persistently cause ASB problems in the town.

“Members of our Safer Community teams also work closely with neighbourhood and park wardens and other partners to tackle long term ASB issues which can have a huge impact on victims.

“However, we also have to manage the day-to-day demand placed on our response officers and quite rightly prioritise our resources to the most serious incidents across the town. “Unfortunately this means there are times when we can’t respond immediately to some reports of low level anti-social behaviour but we will always endeavour to work with partners to tackle on-going problems with ASB.”