Council leader blasts rise of the yobs in Hartlepool

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A CIVIC leader has contacted a police chief to express his concerns over an alarming rise in incidents of anti-social behaviour across Hartlepool.

Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, says the quality of life of town residents is being “blighted” after a 10 per cent rise in anti-social incidents.

From March last year to April 2014, there were 7,483 reported incidents in yob-related crimes, compared to the previous 12 months when 6,813 were recorded.

But police chiefs hit back by saying figures for 2010/2011 were considerably higher with 9,881 reports of anti-social behaviour, equating in a 24 per cent decrease in such crimes to date.

A police spokeswoman also said that in June this year there were 639 incidents – a 7.5 per cent decrease on the previous year’s statistics of 691.

Coun Akers-Belcher claims incidents within neighbourhoods have risen after changes were made to the way areas were covered by Cleveland Police, with residents concerned at what he describes as “the lack of a visible police presence on the streets”.

In a letter to Cleveland Police’s Crime Commisioner Barry Coppinger, Coun Akers-Belcher has urged him to “protect the safety of local residents”.

In his letter, Coun Akers-Belcher, says: “As Chair of the Safer Hartlepool Partnership, I am writing to raise my concerns about the levels of anti-social behaviour in Hartlepool which have increased by almost 10 per cent during 2013/14 and are showing no signs of a reduction.

“Anti-social behaviour in all its forms blights quality of life and in recent years good quality Neighbourhood Policing in Hartlepool has ensured the early identification of problems to prevent further escalation.”

Coun Akers-Belcher went on to urge Mr Coppinger to inform the Government bout the impact police cuts have had on Hartlepool.

The letter added: “I understand that policing across Cleveland, just like any other public service is becoming more difficult to deliver as cut backs and financial pressures impact on our ability to deliver the quality of service our communities deserve and expect.

“However, as the democratically elected Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, I would urge you to continue to impress on Central Government the need to recognise the pressure it is placing on local services and the risks to public safety as a result of its austerity measures.

“Meanwhile, I would be grateful if you could investigate what could be done locally to address the level of police resources coming into Hartlepool bearing in mind the longer term trends in relation to anti-social behaviour.”

Following the Government’s spending review back in 2013, Cleveland Police was forced to carry out a shake-up of the service to make £26m in real-term cuts by the 2014-15 financial year.

As part of the restructure, a total of 324 officer positions were lost across all districts covered by Cleveland, while on a local level there were changes in the way PCSOs opearted and the community office in York Road was closed.

At the time of the changes being revealed, police chiefs assured residents that the restructure would no compromise the service offered by the force.

There are currently two Anti-social behaviour orders (asbos) and six Criminal Anti-social Behaviour Orders (Crasbos) in place in the town.

In addition, a further 12 Asbos and one Drinking Banning Order have expired this year between January 1, and August 8.

The Anti Social Behaviour Unit is also in the process of pursuing two applications for Asbos, with another four potential Asbo applications currently being considered.

Police chiefs insist figures for anti-social behaviour are falling - but says the force won’t rest on its laurels.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland Barry Coppinger says he is always keeping a check on anti-social behaviour statistics and says the downward trend must continue.

He told the Mail: “I recognise the impact anti-social behaviour has on communities and scrutinise performance on a regular basis. June 2014 shows an actual decrease in anti-social behaviour in Hartlepool by 7.5 per cent, however I am not complacent and this downward trend needs to continue.

“Tackling anti-social behaviour is not just a policing issue and reductions in other public funding has had an impact on diversionary and other activities.

“Like other public services, the budget given to me by the Government has been cut by £31m in overall terms, and both my office and Cleveland Police have had to make significant savings at all levels in the organisations.

“The reductions in Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) in Hartlepool have come about in part because the match funding from the local authority, the former Police Authority and the Home Office was withdrawn.

“However Cleveland Police has introduced a new model to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour in neighbourhoods, which incorporates PCSOs, Neighbourhood officers and local investigative teams.

“It has to be recognised that policing tackles a range of issues in neighbourhoods which include cyber crime, public protection and organised crime.

“The feedback I have from regularly attending community meetings in Hartlepool, including across all wards, in schools, with cadets, disability groups, various forums and partnership meetings, is that people are generally very supportive.

“The most important thing of all is that all agencies and communities work together to tackle and otherwise reduce anti-social behaviour.

“I have a good working relationship with Hartlepool Borough Council and will continue to discuss these issues as part of our partnership working. I have asked the Force to consider the concerns raised and work with the Safer Hartlepool Partnership to identify long-term solutions to ensure the reductions continue.

“I have raised the impact of the cuts and other concerns with Ministers and civil servants and will continue to do so whenever I have the opportunity.”