Police call for people to show tolerance to travellers during fair in Blackhall

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A POLICE chief has called for more tolerance of the travelling community while a horse fair takes place in a village.

Durham Police’s Superintendent for neighbourhoods, Kerrin Smith, moved to assure both residents in Blackhall and travellers over the controversial event taking place over the Bank Holiday weekend.

During a police briefing in Blackhall Resource Centre yesterday, Supt Smith told officers, PCSOs, Trading Standards and RSPCA officials: “We need a proportionate response to what’s going on here and not taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

More than 200 caravans descended on Horden when it was held there last year.

Between 20 and 30 caravans were at the old Blackhall pit site by yesterday morning, with more expected and a ‘trot’ to take place on Monday.

Supt Smith told the briefing that Acting Chief Constable Dave Orford is the gold commander for the fair, with herself as silver commander and Peterlee Inspector Dave Coxon bronze commander.

She told officers it is important to communicate and try to reduce tensions in the community, with an “impartial, tolerant, open and engaging approach”.

Supt Smith added that a common misperception associated with traveller events was that crime rises in the area.

But she said in the 24 hours before the meeting, only two incidents were reported in the village, not necessarily connected to the fair – one about an off-road motorbike, and another about a horse and trap speeding down the highway, which had been dealt with.

Supt Smith told the Mail two police officers and three PCSOs will be dedicated to patrolling the event.

She added: “I’ve policed horse fairs before and crime statistics actually go down when the horse fair is on – the fear of crime is not justified by the reality.”

She added: “People should be tolerant of difference. Public bodies under the 2010 Act have a duty to promote community cohesion.

“For me that’s one of the basics of policing today – to ensure that we try and reduce tensions between two different sides, there is good and bad elements in every community.” More than 300 local people attended last year’s event, with over £20,000 spent in the local community.