Blake Gardens , Bridgwater’s principal town centre park, has been the focus of a ‘Multi-Agency’ response to perceived multiple incidents of anti-social behaviour there in the public’s eyes over the last few months. At todays meeting, called by Sedgemoor’s Community Safety department, they believe they’ve finally turned a corner due to a high level focus on the area and increased vigilance. But has it worked, will the public accept that it has and is this a model for targeting areas of anti-social behaviour elsewhere?
Westover ward Town and District councillors Brian Smedley and Kathy Pearce attended the meeting along with representatives from Sedgemoor, the Police, the Fire Rescue service, Clean Surroundings, Parks and open Spaces, The Library service, the Town Council and the CCTV unit.
At the Spring meeting the Police had agreed that Blake Gardens was a priority for them and as a result of a zero tolerance approach had made a key arrest. They had continued with high visibility patrols on a daily basis and were now operating a new ‘Beat Surgery’ in the library.
Zero Tolerance across the board
This policy of equal treatment of all incidents as a priority extended across a whole range of services and included alcohol consumption, ASB, uncontrolled animals, legal highs, litter and noise.
As a result of this policy reported incidents had dropped off dramatically and the agencies involved were in agreement that a corner had been turned and the public should feel confident that they could enjoy the park again.
Cllr Pearce said “This multi-agency approach seems to work and shows that extra vigilance and reporting incidents pays off and now we’ve seen some clear improvements and some problems solved. I’m sure this is an approach that can be extended to other areas.”
Cllr Smedley added “Public perception and statistics don’t always match up and so the next step will be to encourage people’s confidence in the measures taken and to return to the park. It’s also important to note that the good weather hasn’t really kicked in yet and so it’s right that the agencies are not calling it a day and terminating the project but are ready to swing back into action should the situation escalate again. What is very positive is the focus by the agencies on reclaiming the park for the public with activities and amenities such as the extensive lighting programe bid for the riverside footpath under the CIM fund which will include the underpass and the proposals for further family friendly enhancement.”
Family Friendly Enhancements
Further measures proposed for the park include hula hooping sessions organised by Sedgemoor’s ‘Healthy Lifestyles’ officer, the possibility of a ‘green gym’ and the creation of a barbecue zone for families to prevent wildfires as occurred recently. Dog wardens have maintained an appearance ensuring dogs are kept on leads, CCTV had played it’s part in identifying potential incidents and relevant signage has been erected to warn of the penalties for alcohol and ASB.
The next Beat Surgery will be held at the Library on June 10th at 10 till noon. The Police continue to advise people to use the 101 number to report and log incidents.