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Agenda item

Update on the Review of Dartford's Safer Streets Policy

To receive an update from Kent Police representatives.

Minutes:

Members received an oral update from the District Commander, Chief Inspector Neil Louden, regarding his continuing review of Kent Police’s Safer Streets Policy for Dartford.

 

The District Commander reminded Members that the primary aim of the policy was to provide a visible police presence to re-assure the public and contribute towards an invigorated town centre for public benefit and enjoyment.

 

He advised that previously (prior to reductions in Police staffing levels) the Dartford Town Centre police team had comprised 1 Sergeant and 8 Constables. Reduced resources had dictated a reduction in police officers entirely dedicated to town centre duties. Current patrol patterns for the town centre comprised an early intervention patrol by 2 uniformed officers prior to midnight and full night-time economy activity. This was supplemented by random visible uniform patrols to premises and known ‘hot-spots’ after midnight. A ‘knife-arch’ had been purchased and operated in Dartford and Gravesham town centres at week-ends at various premises and locations designated for ‘knife-arch’ operations. Customers could not be required to pass through the ‘knife-arch’ by the police, but commercial venues could make passage through the ‘knife-arch’ by patrons a condition of entry to their premises. Refusal to pass through the ‘knife-arch’ would, in addition to barring entry to venues, also bring those refusing to participate in the scheme to the attention of the police. A further new initiative was increased co-operation between British Transport police and police officers in Dartford CSU, to target criminals from the Metropolis and elsewhere in Kent travelling to Dartford by train.

 

Kent Police had received good feedback from the public via their twitter-feed over these new measures and initiatives, and directly to their officers patrolling in the town centre. It was hoped to increase the week-end police presence in Dartford following the next tranche of Kent Police recruitment.

 

The CSM advised Members that increased PCC funding had been secured to help finance the current CCTV operation in Westgate car park in town. Whilst the strictures of the Government’s 2018 Data Protection Act made successful prosecutions more difficult, it should be noted that there were no reported incidences of drunken behaviour, public urination, car racing or significant noise in relation to the car park. He also asked Members to note that, in support of the present police patrols in the town centre, all police officers in the Borough were able to tap into DBC’s CCTV coverage to enable a rapid response to any incidents that did occur.

 

The Chairman and Members commended the use of the Police twitter-feed to update and encourage the public with ‘good news’ stories. Police use of Snapchat and Instagram was suggested to capture the attention of younger members of the community.

 

In response to specific questions the District Commander, the E&RS/CSU Manager and the CSM confirmed the following points for Members:

 

·         PSPOs (Public Space Protection Orders) were used primarily in the town centre during the hours of the ‘night-time’ economy;

·         Dispersal Powers were only used on an intelligence-led basis, not as a blanket measure, and could only be used by the police;

·         CPWs (Civil Protection Warnings) were the pre-cursor to Civil Protection Notices (CPNs) and were served on specific individuals. 85% of the CPWs issued in Dartford proved effective and did not escalate to the CPN stage. As a civil procedure, CSU Officers rather than Kent Police led in the issue of CPWs, which were the preferred and most effective measure to combat ASB given the focus on named individuals, rather than the wider-ranging PSPO measure which targeted a general area where ASB was being committed;

·         The Council used the full range of available powers to combat crime and ASB in Dartford and good Officer/Councillor co-operation was part of that effort. PSPO powers had been used recently by the Council’s Park Ranger service to seize alcohol in Central Park; DBC’s CCTV operation had been used to tackle the dumping of nitrous dioxide canisters with the offenders subjected to £400 FPNs by CSU Enforcement Officers; CCTV was useful but not a universal panacea, was expensive to operate and maintain and not universally welcomed by residents, particularly in public parks and open spaces, where protection of privacy became an issue. Extension of current CCTV coverage in the town centre to include new developments in Dartford across the main railway tracks (as proposed by one Member) would require careful consideration and costing analysis;

·         The Council’s decision to retain its CCTV operation ‘in-house’ was paying real dividends in terms of local knowledge being used to tackle local issues. However, DBC’s current CCTV operation remained a major cost centre for the Council, particularly in terms of the fibre cable for the system supplied by BT. Purchasing its own fibre cable was a possible option for the Council to reduce costs in the future.

 

The Chairman thanked the District Commander for updating Members and CSU Officers for responding to Members questions. He judged that the Safer Streets Initiative had made real progress in the preceding 4 years and that Kent Police and the Council’s CSU team were to be congratulated over their efforts on behalf of the Dartford public.