Keynsham shows united front on anti-social behaviour at meeting

March 02 2018
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The anti-social behaviour affecting Keynsham has no quick fix – but there are many people willing to play a part in finding one, a meeting on the issue has revealed.

The anti-social behaviour affecting Keynsham has no quick fix – but there are many people willing to play a part in finding one, a meeting on the issue has revealed.

Residents, police, traders, councillors, the head teachers from both of the town’s secondary schools, the library service and community and church groups all came together on February 22 to discuss how to tackle issues ranging from vandalism and verbal abuse to threatening behaviour and drug use.

The meeting, organised by Keynsham Town Council, follows rising concerns over the level of anti-social behaviour in the town – which began at the end of last summer with incidents including severe damage to the Memorial Park bandstand’s roof and a disturbance at Time Out youth centre that resulted in the police being called. 

The council said its youth service, which has since employed two outreach workers, could not tackle the issue alone and called the meeting with the aim of bringing people together to come up with  solutions.

A new initiative, Keynsham Community Spirit, was launched online just weeks ago with exactly that goal and has already gained around 350 members, founder Trisha Williams told the meeting. Speaking alongside new chair Trisha Lahner, she said she believed reduced public services had had an impact on the community and there was frustration and anger at damaged or stolen property and fear among elderly and vulnerable people as well as those with young children.

KCS’s aim was to work together to create diversionary activities for young people and to inspire and encourage them, she said.

“Despite the frustration, we want to find positive and effective ways together and make young people feel valued,” she said. “We have had lots of positive feedback, ideas, skills and experience offered and together we need to tap into this community spirit. We can only do it with support, alongside police, the council, youth workers and agencies, and establish an effective network. This could be a legacy for the town with positive effects long into the future.”

Sergeant Jon Bagnowiec told the meeting that the police were keen to work with other agencies and groups to tackle the issue, the key to which was long-term and involved officers talking in schools, working with youth services and engaging with drug users, he said.

Police received around one call a day to report anti-social behaviour in the Keynsham area in the four weeks leading up to February 16, similar to Frome in the same period, he told the meeting. There were also 24 local reports of criminal damage in the same period, 11 of which were related to anti-social behaviour.

He added: “Keynsham is a safe place to live and work – although it does experience some crime and disorder it’s less than most. We will take part in any initiative, returning residents
to a feeling of safety.”

The police figures also revealed “hotspots” within the town, including the Civic Centre, which Sgt Bagnowiec described as a “teenagers’ playground” with shops opening late, a wide open space and hidden corners.

One father-of-two told the meeting that he and his wife were questioning whether they wanted to stay in Keynsham after groups of teenagers riding bikes and congregating in the Civic Centre frightened his young children on the way to the swimming pool.

He said: “They are used to not having police around. It is making the Civic Centre an unpleasant area. My blood was boiling that my young children were frightened and it should not happen in our town.”

One trader said disturbances in the Market Walk area had scared customers and called for CCTV in the area to be urgently fixed.

There was also a call for CCTV in the Queens Road area, which was represented by a number of residents who said they had faced a range of troubling issues, including drug-dealing in the streets, racial abuse, damage to cars and smashed windows. Bath and North East Somerset councillor Charles Gerrish said costs and funding for CCTV in the area were being looked into. 

Concern over policing levels in the town were raised by Keynsham South councillor Alan Hale, an issue that could only be tackled with more funding at national level, he said. “We don’t have enough police on the streets,” he added. “People must write to the MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, as he is the only one who can put his hand up in Parliament. He needs to know the strength of feeling.”

A police spokesperson confirmed that the neighbourhood policing team consists of four PCSOs, one full-time and one part-time officer, and has just appointed a third beat manager – the same level of policing the town has had for six years.

Frustrations at the anti-social behaviour were clear throughout the meeting but there were also plenty of offers of help – from one resident who said she would visit schools to explain the impact of crime on victims to a representative from Churches Together who said the organisation could look at a voluntary Street Pastor scheme after the meeting heard from a speaker from the Bath group.

The meeting was streamed live on the internet and can be viewed on Facebook at http://bit.ly/2BQsKG6

Anyone who would like to join the Keynsham Community Spirit group can find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/2089732637926239/