Lancashire's parks and public transport to be patrolled as part of £2m push to reduce antisocial behaviour
The government has handed the county £2m to fund the initiative as part of its Antisocial Behaviour Action Plan, which was launched on Monday.
The cash will be used to boost police patrols - and those of other "uniformed authority figures", such as wardens - in known problem areas like high streets, parks and on public transport.
Lancashire has been chosen as so-called “trailblazer” for the scheme which will be rolled out nationwide next year.
No details have yet emerged about the number of officers and other uniformed patrollers who will be deployed under the project in the county, but the funding for it will be spread over two years.
The government says that the increased presence “will help deter antisocial behaviour, step up enforcement action against offenders, make sure crimes are punished more quickly and drive deterrence efforts, helping to stop anti-social behaviour spiralling into more serious criminality”.
Lancashire is one of 10 areas that will trial the hotspots programme, while 10 others will receive funding to pilot an “immediate justice” initiative. That will see cases disposed of out of court on the condition that perpetrators repair any damage caused in communities - with the aim being for them to start doing so within 48 hours of their offence.
Offenders could also be ordered to support the local community in other ways, such as unpaid work in shops and picking litter on high streets - all while wearing hi-vis vests and working under supervision.
Four police force areas will trial both initiatives, although Lancashire is not among them - meaning that it will not see immediate justice take effect in the county until that scheme is also expanded nationwide in 2024.
Andrew Snowden, the Tory police and crime commissioner for Lancashire, welcomed the extra cash that his force would now have at its disposal in order to focus on driving down antisocial incidents. He approached the government at the start of the year and offered to work with its new antisocial behaviour task force to better target the problem in Lancashire.
Speaking about the new money that the county has now been allocated, Mr. Snowden said that it will “go a long way towards addressing the devastating impact antisocial behaviour has on communities”.
"Antisocial behaviour isn’t a minor crime, nor is it acceptable here in Lancashire. It makes life miserable for so many and it can be a gateway to more serious crimes. It's an issue residents raise with me time and time again, and I'm pleased that Lancashire’s voice is being heard.
"This boost will mean increased, visible police patrols, dedicated to tackling antisocial behaviour and the issues that matter most to people.
"Utilising money from government and money seized from criminals through my Safer Lancashire Neighbourhoods Fund, I will continue to deal with root causes to reduce the impact this has on people across the county and ensure they, rightly, feel safe wherever they are.
"It is vital for community confidence that these crimes will be quickly and visibly addressed. Wherever in Lancashire people live, they should be able to feel proud of their community,” said Mr. Snowden, who was elected to the commissioner role in May 2021, replacing Labour’s Clive Grunshaw, who had held the position since it was created almost nine years earlier.
The funding announcement came as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that the government was guilty of coming up with only "sticking plaster" solutions to crime and antisocial behaviour. He said in an interview with the LDRS that he wanted to restore public confidence that the police would be able to respond to reports made to them.
Lancashire Police chief constable Chris Rowley warned that, “where left unchecked, antisocial behaviour can have an overwhelming impact on its victims and, in some cases, the wider community”.
He added: “Everyone has the right to be safe and feel safe in Lancashire and we are committed to working with our communities and partners to tackle antisocial behaviour.
“We look at all the incidents reported to us across the county and make sure we have a local pro-active, operational response in place where it is required and use all the legislation available to us including criminal behaviour orders, dispersal orders and other tools.
“However, there is always more that can be done and this extra funding is very welcome. It will help to further strengthen our resources and boost the good work already under way in Lancashire to tackle antisocial behaviour,” Chief Con Rowley said.
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove said that antisocial behaviour “erodes local pride, blights our high streets and parks and is a stain on too many communities across the country”.
He added: “We know that it is more likely to flourish in areas that have, for too long, been overlooked and undervalued.
“So we will intervene directly to prevent high street dereliction. We will deliver tougher, quicker and more visible justice to prevent thuggish behaviour in town centres and we will ensure young people have the opportunities and activities available to them to succeed - all backed by new investment.”
A total of £160m will be invested as part of the Antisocial Behaviour Action Plan.
WHAT’S THE GOVERNMENT’S PLAN?
***‘Immediate justice’’, via the issuing out-of-court disposals with conditions for perpetrators to repair any damage caused in communities - with the aim being for them to start within 48 hours of the offence. If the original damage has already been cleared up, offenders will support the local community in other ways, such as unpaid work in shops and picking litter on high streets - all while wearing hi-vis vests and working under supervision.
*** Victims and communities will have a say in shaping the consequences offenders face.
***Ban the sale of nitrous oxide - otherwise known as “laughing gas” - to the public. It is already illegal to sell the substance for its psychoactive effect, but has still been the third most-used drug in England and Wales - after cannabis and cocaine - since 2012 and one in ten 16-24-year olds have reported using it in a recent 12-month period. The government says it will consult in the ban so as not to hamper the “legitimate uses” of nitrous oxide in areas such as medicine and industry.
***Encourage local councils to take a tougher stance on littering, fly-tipping and graffiti and increase the upper limits for on-the-spot fines for such activity - to £1,000 for fly-tipping and £500 for spraying graffiti. Recent research suggests 92 percent of councils do not hand out any on-the-spot fines to those who have graffitied an area, although they did issue 91,000 such penalties to fly-tippers in 2021/22.
Souce: Antisocial Behaviour Action Plan, Home Office