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Protection order proposal to help tackle crime

Published Thursday, 07 February 2019

West Midlands Police and Coventry City Council are hoping to gain support from councillors to consult on a possible Public Space Protection Order (PSPO).

The PSPO could cover areas in and surrounding the city centre.

In a report to Cabinet Members on 12 February officers from both the police and local authority will highlight a 20 per cent increase in violent crime across Coventry in the last 12 months – with a spike in violence recently in some locations around and on the edge of the city centre.

According to senior police officers, a PSPO would assist them in combating crime by enabling officers to act quicker and more effectively if they suspect people have gathered in the city centre intent on causing trouble.

The Order gives police the power to move on any groups who they believe are an anti-social behaviour or crime risk – and arrest them if they refuse to leave the area covered by the PSPO.

The extent of the proposed PSPO boundaries aims to avoid displacement of criminal activity in parts of the city centre and other areas including the Canal Basin and Gosford Green.

Cllr Abdul Salam Khan, Cabinet Member for Policing and Equalities, said that no decision could be made without getting feedback from the public, businesses, partners and people who visit the city centre.

He said: “Evidence from the police and partners has clearly set out concerns and it’s important we get a wider understanding of what local people think.

“A PSPO that covers the city centre and surrounding area will need to be carefully thought through.

“What we do know is that there have been innocent victims of violent crime which has affected families, friends and communities. We need to understand where patterns of criminality are happening.

“Any Order must be targeted effectively and not stigmatise innocent people. We want to generate debate on this but we cannot stand by when evidence tells us that this measure could aid more effective policing at a time when the funding of policing is under the spotlight.”

PSPOs are intended to provide a means of preventing individuals or groups committing anti-social behaviour in a public space where behaviour is having, or likely to have, a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality; be persistent or continuing in nature; and be unreasonable. Only local authorities can declare a PSPO.

Cllr Jim O’Boyle, a ward councillor in St Michael’s Ward, said it is absolutely vital to tackle the problem of serious violent crime head on.

He said: “I’ve been to numerous meetings with the police and the community, and witnessed the scale of the problem, and its horrendous impact. We are talking about widescale violent and organised crime that I believe is escalating in parts of my ward and elsewhere.

“We urgently need a concerted effort to disrupt and stop this. There is no question – councillors will support this public space protection order. We know that policing is underfunded and we need all agencies to help combat this. I’m absolutely certain that the public will support us.”  

Local intelligence will be presented by police and other partners to councillors including representatives from the BID, and Whitefriars Housing at the public meeting on 12 February. An impact statement explains the extent of drug use and drug dealing, exploitation of young people – both criminally and sexually – and an increase violence in some pockets of the city centre and nearby areas. 

Superintendent Phil Healy added: “I’m pleased that council officers have recommended we seek public consultation on the proposal with a view to introducing a PSPO in the city centre.

“PSPOs are a really effective tool for police officers: it allows them to disperse groups of two or more people if they fear they are up to no good. If they refuse to move on they can be arrested and/or given a fixed penalty fine.

“Visitors who are in the city centre to shop, work or entertainment – law-abiding citizens – have nothing to fear from this proposal. We’re applying for the PSPO to help protect them and get a firmer grip on those who are intent on causing trouble.”

If Councillors support the proposal to consult on a PSPO for the city centre and the surrounding area, officers will then run a consultation for 30 days involving partners, residents in the areas affected, businesses and the wider public.

The results of a consultation would be taken back to the Council’s Scrutiny Committee and then brought back to Cabinet.

It is possible that a PSPO could be in place by July 2019 and would be valid for three years.

Cllr Khan added: “I am sure that in any consultation there will be different views on whether a PSPO will offer a long term deterrent to crime. What people do need to understand is that we need to protect vulnerable young people who may be coerced into crime, and equally ensure that the city centre is attractive to visitors and shoppers of all ages and all backgrounds and businesses. People who are acting lawfully would be unaffected.”

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