To allow members of the public to address the Committee.
A member of the public addressed the Committee and asked a question, but was advised that if he gave his contact details he would receive an answer outside of the meeting.
Inspector Fran Harrod, Boston’s Policing Inspector, addressed the Committee.
Giving a general overview of policing activity in August 2019, the Committee heard that there had been 1,351 calls for the service, compared to 1,219 in August 2018, and 578 crimes had subsequently been recorded (not all calls related to crimes). There had been a significant increase in the number of crimes reported online. The top 5 crimes reported were assault without injury; assault with injury; shoplifting; public fear / alarm / distress; and general theft.
Since May, work had been ongoing to deal with the public’s fear of crime, mainly relating to street drinking and public urination and defecation. Officers had met with Community Safety Officers, who were key to this matter, and had revised their approach to street drinking. In August 2019, 27 initial advice letters had been issued with respect to the Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) following the successful confiscation of alcohol. Part figures for September were that 11 initial advice letters had been issued, 3 cases had moved on to the warning letter and one had received a community protection warning. If a person who had received the initial advice letter re-offended, the information would be fed back directly to the Council’s Community Safety team. Not having an address was not a bar to receiving a warning. The next step would be to issue a notice, but this was not a police procedure; it was a matter for the Community Safety team.
Inspector Harrod hoped that this gave reassurance that the police focused on matters known to cause distress and that they were listening to the public. A significant amount of work was ongoing to improve matters in the long-term and Councillors who had shadowed the police had been quite impressed.
The Police and Crime Commissioner had recently visited the Council to address Members and had acknowledged the high level of the fear of crime in Boston and confirmed his intention to secure officers for Boston in the next recruitment uplift. Work was ongoing with Boston College to try to ensure that more future officers were from the local area.
With respect to homelessness and begging, work was ongoing with respect to enforcement and also with offering help and assistance.
Inspector Harrod suggested that information on the 101 service could be presented to a future meeting if Members wished. Members of the public who had complained about the service had been asked to provide screenshots, but as yet none had been received.
In response to questions, Inspector Harrod reported that the Chief Officer of Police was working towards securing 350-400 officers for Lincolnshire and to achieve the capacity to train them. (There were no longer national police training colleges and each force had to carry out training itself, which was a daunting task.) It was not known where this number would be specifically deployed but the PCC would ensure that Boston was allocated its fair share due to the recognised level of fear of crime (allocation was not purely based on crime figures).
Inspector Harrod confirmed that the decision had been taken years previously to pass responsibility for parking enforcement to the County Council.
Members’ comments included recognition of the pressure the police were under; concern that Boston should receive its fair share of future police officers; the importance of joint discussions between the Council and the police; and appreciation of police reports to public meetings.
There was still concern about incidents of street drinking and urination. In response, Inspector Harrod explained that it would be unrealistic to imagine that it could be eliminated, but they all needed to work together to keep it at controllable levels.
In response to concern that the fear of crime was increased by the media, Inspector Harrod confirmed that the force have officers to address this. A vast amount of information was sent out and, although the police were achieving good results on a daily basis, negative social media comments were damaging. This was not to play down negative incidents, they had to be acknowledged, but the police could look to improve how they communicated the facts.
The police had a variety of methods to deal with low-level drug offences, depending on age and previous incidents.
The Chairman thanked Inspector Harrod and urged Members to send as many questions as possible in advance of the meeting.
A Member suggested that the Inspector’s attendance should be a standing item at each meeting, and if she was unable to attend, that she could send through facts and figures. Inspector Harrod confirmed that she was happy to attend future meetings and, if she was unable to do so, she would prepare responses for the Committee and send a sergeant in her place.
Inspector Harrod then responded to questions submitted by Members prior to the meeting.
With respect to travellers and their impact on Boston, Inspector Harrod reported that there had been four recent encampments, one that had come through from Spalding. One had moved on quickly, another had caused no problems, but their presence had been an issue. If a landowner stated that travellers were not welcome on their land, the police could use section 61 powers to move them on. Difficulties were caused when an encampment was causing issues, but a landowner did not turn up to give this statement. Legal action was being taken to the High Court to enable attendance on behalf of landowners and county-wide work was ongoing to accelerate the process. There were two elements to dealing with encampments: the landowner had to state that they did not want them on their land and/or they were causing damage, threatening the landowner or there were 6 or more vehicles present.
In conclusion, Inspector Harrod stated that the encampments had not had a significant impact on Boston and the police were working well with the Council’s Community Safety team on the matter.
A Member suggested that Boston’s County Councillors be asked to assist when County Council attendance was necessary. Inspector Harrod confirmed that the Community Safety Manager was looking into this.
A second question put before the meeting related to the number of incidents when PCSOs and police officers had telephoned the CCTV section and not received an answer. Inspector Harrod reported that there had been one specific event and it was understood that there had only been one CCTV operative on duty and this could happen when that operative was under pressure. Anecdotally, officers had said that it happened occasionally, but they would simply try to ring again or the control room would phone through and take their own steps.
Inspector Harrod then stated the figures relating to crimes reported specifically within Central Park: 103 in 2016; 83 in 2017; 99 in 2018 and 94 so far in 2019. This showed there was a slight trend upwards, but not a significant spike to bring to Members’ attention.
In response to questions, it was explained that the reports in 2016 and 2017 had been mainly in the daytime and related to street drinking. In 2019, the reports related to a wider range of incidents and were no longer dominated by street drinking. In the town centre, one constable and four PCSOs were on routine patrol and the park was patrolled daily, with the response team usually responding to specific incidents.
A Member spoke in favour of locking the park gates at night, believing it would discourage anti-social behaviour and save police time, and also that repairs should be carried out to prevent access to the park by other means, such as through a hole in one of the fences. Another Member asserted that problems arose in the daytime.