I am unable to attend tomorrow’s PACT meeting at St. Andrew’s Church at 7.00pm, so I wanted to do a quick written update for local residents on the work I have been doing to tackle anti-social behaviour in Church Hill. To be precise, I’m referring to the kind of anti-social behaviour that involves groups of young people behaving in dangerous, intimidating and sometimes illegal ways.
During and after a recent Friday night local Councillor surgery session I encountered one of the groups directly, along with Cllr Juliet Brunner who joins me at the sessions from a County Council perspective. I become very concerned about the behaviour of the group and what they were up to that a call to the police became necessary.
In the days that followed I met with police and council officers and a number of actions have been taken, including the cutting back of some bushes and trees that were being used as hiding places to carry out illegal activities. It was shocking to say the least that some of the people associated with these activities were clearly below the age of 15 or 16.
Fast-forward to more recently and this time I encounter a group of young people, and one young person in particular, who was riding his bicycle up and down the bus road across the Tanhouse Lane junction, right up to the bus and right in front of it doing wheelies. At one point the bus had to slam on its brakes to avoid hitting the young person, who couldn’t have been more than 17 years old or so. Another call was made to the police.
At both incidents I very obviously called the police, right in front of the groups. I am not a small bloke and I won’t allow these kids to intimidate me. However, on both occasions neither of the groups were in the slightest bit bothered that I had called the police. They were not afraid the police would come, and they just carried on doing what they were doing. Eventually, as the calls to the police went on they realised I really did call the police so they casually drifted away. It felt more like they were reluctantly moving on more to avoid the awkwardness of the situation than any fear of being in trouble with the police.
Therein lies the problem, folks. These young people – who come from all over Redditch to hang out in Church Hill, by the way – are seemingly fearless and operate with a sense of impunity. They do whatever they want, whenever they want and they don’t respond to adults telling them otherwise.
Well, we shall see about that.
Over the coming days, weeks and months I will be working with my colleagues on the Borough Council, my colleagues at the County Council – especially Juliet Brunner who set up the Matchborough Task Force after similar issues were encountered there – and also with West Mercia Police to see what further options we have to explore.
I will work with our MP, Rachel Maclean, to continue to lobby government and in particular the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to ensure that our police are getting the resources they clearly need to help local communities like ours.
I will not be partisan in this work and I will reach across the political aisle for support in dealing with this problem – I hope my political opponents will also approach this in a bipartisan way also.
Finally, I urge you all to keep calling 101, or if the situation requires it, 999. By reporting problems and incidents we can start to create a better intelligence picture, allowing police to respond better and more proactively, but also so the Borough Council and County Council can direct resources appropriately.