Environmental crime crackdown

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COUNCIL chiefs are to launch a new crackdown on environmental crime across areas of Hartlepool.

Hartlepool Borough Council is looking to clamp down on dog fouling, graffiti, littering and fly-tipping in hot-spot areas of the town over the coming months.

Councillors backed the plans, which will involve Neighbourhood Action Days and creating a system of neighbourhood improvement volunteers, at a recent meeting.

It is all part of the new “Respect Your Neighbourhood” campaign whereby councillors want to see educating the public on health issues such as dog fouling, in particular, as a key part of the initiative.

Denise Ogden, the council’s director of regeneration and neighbourhoods, said: “The Respect Your Neighbourhood monthly day of action will be enforcement-orientated.

“But will also include measures to improve neighbourhood safety and create safer streets such as addressing poor lighting by repairing broken street lights, cutting back bushes that both obscure the pedestrian highway and provide convenient hiding places for would-be criminals, and tackling street drinking.

“It would operate on one day per month, and all 11 wards within Hartlepool would benefit from the initiative on a rotational basis.”

Depending on the issues in particular areas, the campaign could include litter, dog fouling, dogs off lead enforcement, illegal parking enforcement, housing standards enforcement, anti-social behaviour patrols, trading standards and environmental health activity or arson reduction work.

Senior officers say agencies involved will vary according to the individual ward issues.

But they would generally include the police, fire service, Housing Hartlepool, and the council’s neighbourhood, regeneration, and public health service teams.

During the meeting, councillors questioned whether this was similar to Operation Clean Sweep, bought in under the former directly elected mayor, Stuart Drummond.

But officers said that was a week-long clean up campaign, whereas the neighbourhood action days would take place once a month in hot-spot areas, without any prior warning and would involve fixed penalty notices from the relevant enforcement agencies.

The plans were presented to the council’s neighbourhood services committee, chaired by Labour councillor Peter Jackson.

Coun Jackson said: “There are three parts to this. We need to educate people, the clean-up side and then the enforcement if necessary.”

Putting Hartlepool First councillor Steve Gibbon said: “I’m pleased that this has come in, and I hope that every ward will benefit from it.”

Councillors were told the problem would be catching those responsible for environmental crime but praised the teams on the ground who carry out the work.

Committee members were told that results from the Hartlepool Household survey 2013 showed that when residents were asked about problems in their area, dog mess and litter were a problem for 56 per cent and 38 per cent of residents respectively.

Work has been ongoing behind the scenes and a plan has now been put forward which the committee members endorsed and approved the action days, volunteer scheme and improving reporting systems.