Friday, October 02, 2009

Task Team in Westgate

It's close to 10pm and I've been out in Westgate tonight with the formidable Sgt Lara Connor and her TASK Team of officers.

In an earlier post, I mentioned my concern at the astonishing rise in anti-social behaviour incidents and even a robbery in Westgate in the last month or so and I'm delighted to say that this week, the dedicated Police unit started vigorously patrolling Westgate in some force, ten hours a day, targeting the groups of teenagers who are behind the problem and this evening, taking a number of the younger ones home to surprised parents with a strong message.

A dispersal order will come into force on 9th October but until then the police and the PCSO's are making life difficult for the teenagers who have been using the area ouside and inside the train station to congregate and drink. As I came home this evening, most had been pushed out towards the seafront with their cans of 'Stella' confiscated and poured away into the gutter.

There is however a carrot as well as a stick on offer and PCSO, Craig Raisbeck, is organising football at Hartsdown on Wednesday night and even bowling for teenagers who are prepared to leave the streets for something a little more challenging.

From speaking with the Police and PCSO's this evening there are a couple of things that I would like to see done and I'll be seeking the support of my colleagues, the two other Westgate councillors, Tom King and Brian Goodwin.

Firstly, the Police would like to see the bench outside 'Almost News', moved somewhere else, as this is acting a congregation point opposite the station. Secondly, they would like to see the 'planters' outside the station moved or taken away, as these also act as seats for the kids,. They are also frequently vandalised and have turned into huge outdoor ashtrays, so I'm inclined to agree with the sense of trying to do something with them.

Finally, the railway company needs to be persuaded to put a very bright light outside the station entrance to deter the teenagers from congregating there at all. It's an intimidating, shadowy place at present and not really what we should have, as both the cash point and the bus stop is are in front.

From what I've seen this evening travelling around in the patrol car, the initiative appears to be working very well and the problem teenagers, most known by name to the Police and some with a long history, appear to be getting the message. Most certainly, I'm not prepared to see the centre of Westgate become a place where people don't feel safe after dark and I've been promised regular reports on the progress of the operation and any arrests that have been made.

Finally, CCTV outside the station would be an ideal deterrent but that's a far more difficult challenge to overcome at present.


Anonymous said...

I agree that the youngsters are becoming a problem but I take issue with some of the 'remedies'. Removing the bench will be to the detriment of elderly or disabled people and removing the planters will be to detriment of the whole community who have enjoyed seeing them. Are we to strip our streets back to the bare bones to prevent a minority from abusing the facilities ? How about this for a radical solution ? How about making sure that the attention the youngsters are currently enjoying continues on an 'ad hoc' basis ? Obviously they (the kids)just wait for the patrols to finish doing their little PR exercise to appease the locals and start reassembling again ! We all know that our police force is ineffectual and rarely seen, and sadly the police policies have become part of the problem and not part of the solution. Few people have faith in the police these days and if they honestly think that this 'temporary' solution will solve the problem permanently, then they obviously are completely out of touch. I have not visited Westgate after dark in the last 4 years, I do not use the (as you point out) ill lit cashpoint, and as a direct consequence I do not shop in Westgate any longer. When it is as bad as Margate maybe the police will take some responsibilty for the fact that their neglect has contributed to the steady decline of Westgate. This all seems a bit too much like 'shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted'. Too little, too late and after all, just a temporary solution.
Let's face it, if the statistics are correct and we have an ageing population, we actually need MORE benches. I, for one, would be opposed to removing the bench and planters and if this is the best our local representatives can come up with, then we may as well give up now.

DrM. said...

In an ideal world, we would have flowers and benches in plenty but sadly, the flowers have been scattered around the street and the benches - or this bench in particular - is commonly occupied by teenagers or local drunks and not the resting and deserving elderly.

I've been visiting the shops today and the consensus, with no objections, is that they would like to see the bench moved and the planters removed in the public interest as would the Police.

It's not by any stretch of the imagination a complete solution but a remedy. I'm afraid that regardless of will, we are not going to be able to turn back the clock on the 'Broken Britain' which is making such problems commonplace in every town across the country.

Anonymous said...

"As I came home this evening, most had been pushed out towards the seafront" moving the same set of problems to the seafront? i hope not.

DrM. said...

So what do you suggest 8:37 in teh absence of a disperal order? Arrest them for being teenagers in a public place?

Anonymous said...

So, imagine the scenario, we've moved the bench, moved the planters, Westgate has become as bleak as other seaside towns and the youngsters do the obvious....sit on the pavement ! Don't punish the law abiding citizens by removing things that they enjoy, put a police presence on the streets and maybe then we will get some order back into society. To all those fans of CCTV cameras, don't complain that the police are not walking the streets when you so enthusiastically hailed the CCTV cameras that do not work. I sincerely doubt that removing a bench or the fauna will make an iota of difference to the kids. Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

some many years ago the residents ass of westgate were up in arms about the seat being moved to were it is today ,moving the seat is not the problem ,it is getting the police out there to stop this going on we all know that kids that give the most trouble come from out of town so get the transport police on to this matter don,t remove everything it is point less this is the 21 centry not the dark days
have some sence please