Cutbacks in police resources have helped Blackpool become centre of anti-social behaviour in county
Police are being forced to deal with an average of 36 reports of anti-social behaviour in Blackpool every day, it can today be revealed.
The startling figure emerged as the town was named the worst in Lancashire for loutish behaviour last year, with 13,142 incidents being logged by police.
Bank Hey Street, which runs past the Tower, was the epicentre for trouble with 197 reports, while Queen Street, home to several nightclubs and pubs, had 175.
The recent surge has been blamed on cuts to policing, with an estimated 900 fewer officers across the county than there were five years ago.
Rachel Baines, chairman of the Lancashire Police Federation, said: “There’s no doubt in my mind that a visible police presence acts as a deterrent. When that presence is not there, there’s more of an incentive to behave in an anti-social manner.
“It has a huge impact on people’s lives so it should not been dismissed as a lesser crime than anything else, and certainly people affected by it want a police presence when they report something. But it’s becoming more and more difficult for police to respond because of the cuts.
“Clearly, fewer resources will mean an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour. It’s frustrating to offers because they can’t get to everything they want to.”
In Lancashire, reports of anti-social behaviour rose to more than 76,000 in 2016, and the county was named as a national hotspot in a recent report by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary. Only two forces had a higher rate of incidents than Lancashire, once population was taken into account, and The Gazette can today expose the streets and neighbourhoods that attracted the most complaints.
While one rural area on the fringes of the county saw just five reports made across the entire year, Bank Hey Street alone was home to 197 incidents – more than one every two days.
The 10 worst streets in the resort attracted 1,047 complaints, according to analysis of the data published on police.uk.
One town centre neighbourhood – stretching from the Hilton to Talbot Road and from the seafront to Blackpool North station – saw 989 incidents logged in 12 months, the most in Lancashire.
And five of the top 10 neighbourhoods in the county for anti-social behaviour were in Blackpool.
WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING?
Youngsters were throwing bricks and eggs at passing cars in Waterloo Road and Seasiders Way, South Shore, last December.
The problem became so bad, taxi firms threatened to withdraw from the area.
Dozens of reports from furious drivers saw police swoop on the area and issue a Community Protection Notice (CPN) to one youth for their persistent anti-social behaviour.
Officers were also set to carry out regular visits armed with body cams to catch offenders on film.
Waterloo ward councillor David O’Hara added: “This type of behaviour is completely unacceptable and undermines the efforts of local people and traders who are working hard to make South Shore a more attractive and interesting place for visitors.”
Then in February, officers began using the strongest powers available in a crackdown on teenage tearaways causing havoc in Blackpool town centre.
Some 20 dispersal orders were issued in a two-week period to youths aged 13 to 16 gathering around McDonald’s in Bank Hey Street, the MFA Bowl in Market Street and the Odeon Cinema in Rigby Road.
One officer said problems with youths have persisted in the town centre since the Fireworks Championships held in the resort each Friday in September last year.
In 2014 around 500 youths were caught up in the trouble on Bank Hey Street which saw police pelted with bottles as they tried to break up a fight on a Friday night as the town was packed with families for the World Fireworks Championships. Just last week, the Central Blackpool Business Forum launched a pilot radio scheme that currently sees 20 hotels and businesses talking to each other over the airwaves.
“This way if there’s someone creeping around, people can use the radio to ask someone to come over so they feel safer, or to take a quick look outside,” hotelier Stuart Caddick said.
Fellow hotelier Gerard Walsh added: “If you’ve got somebody causing anti-social behaviour, you can let other hotels and shops know straight away.
“I think it could help prevent crime as well as help inform people about problems that are happening in the town.”
HOW WELL ARE POLICE TACKLING THIS?
Lancashire Police was rated ‘good’ by inspectors for the way it works to tackle anti-social behaviour and keep people safe.
In a report earlier this month, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary wrote: “Lancashire Constabulary works hard to understand risks in local communities.
“The constabulary uses a range of effective approaches and tactics to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.
“Neighbourhood policing across the constabulary is seen as ‘everybody’s job’.”
The report highlighted the use of an early action approach – preventing problems before they escalate – and regular risk assessments with other organisations to tackle the issue. It adds the use of community protection notices – working alongside the probation service and social housing providers – has seen a success rate of between 80 and 90 per cent in helping prevent repeat problems and save thousands of hours of police time.
WHAT HAVE POLICE SAID?
“The term ‘anti-social behaviour’ covers a range of offences including, but not limited to, vandalism, hate crime, fireworks misuse, hoax calls and alcohol or drugs being used or dealt in the street.
It also includes reports of street drinking and begging.
“It can involve harm to an individual, to the wider community or to the environment, and can leave victims feeling harassed, alarmed or distressed.
“We understand that this can have a profound impact on victims and how safe they feel in their neighbourhood, and we – along with partners such as the fire service, social housing landlords and other community safety agencies – are committed to tackling this type of crime.
“Our neighbourhood officers regularly hold PACT (Police and Communities Together) meetings and online ePACT meetings on local Facebook pages, and we regularly meet with partner agencies to address community priorities and decide what will be done to tackle these. The Blackpool Town Centre Neighbourhood Team regularly responds to hot spot areas with bespoke operations which are run in conjunction with local partners and businesses to tackle anti-social behaviour and at weekends Operation Nightsafe also operates from the town centre in response to the night-time economy.
“Anybody experiencing problems with anti-social behaviour is urged to contact their neighbourhood policing team on 101, or 999 in an emergency.
“More information about anti-social behaviour and which agency is best placed to deal with a specific complaint can be found at https://lancashire.police.uk/help-advice/safer-communities/anti-social-behaviour/”