Police and Parking

01 September 2017

Since disbanding of the town centre policing unit in 2011, police presence in the town centre has been largely reactionary and transient.  As with other towns, crime statistics are on the rise with anti-social behaviour and issues involving the homeless amongst the most prevalent challenges.  Staff of the BedfordBID are not police nor are they enforcement officers, and they do not have any warranted powers.

The national picture is well documented in relation to the cutting of police funding and reduction of police numbers.  At a local level, policing in the town centre has been a topic under much discussion over the past few years. Businesses have been called upon to attend open BID Board Meetings and invited to raise their issues direct with the Bedfordshire Police & Crime Commissioner at the BedfordBID breakfasts.  Businesses have also been encouraged to engage through the Retail RadioLink & Exclusion Scheme Steering Group.  As a result of concerns raised by businesses, landlords, staff and visitors to the town, the BID Board of Directors have been negotiating towards an arrangement which will increase police visibility in the town centre.  

The details of this arrangement includes financial support to ensure that two PCSOs are dedicated to our town centre area. A BID budget of £30k has been set for this purpose. This is to be deemed an enhancement of the current policing provision, and therefore within our BID remit. In addition, this would not involve any business paying any further levy costs should the initiative proceed; the funds required come from the existing BID budget. The investment for the remainder of this financial year will be prorated. 

The BID investment will be ‘matched’ by Bedfordshire Police, to ensure the provision of the PCSO equivalent of two full time town centre police officers, effective as of 11th September.  This initiative is compliant with the National Policing Crime Prevention Strategy and The Modern Crime Strategy.  

A precedent has already been set when BedfordBID funded policing in the town during its first term. Other BIDs are now running similar initiatives. Under the terms of a formal Service Level Agreement with Bedfordshire Police, priorities and results will be reviewed monthly.  This Agreement can be terminated by either party if necessary. 

The powers of the PCSOs will enable key Bedford town centre issues to be addressed under the command of the Local Policing Team for the town centre (currently Inspector Paul Ayling).

The agreed priorities (in no particular order) will begin with:

  • Regular presence of PCSO’s within the town centre with the aim of reducing anti-social behaviour incidents and, where possible, attend reported incidents of ASB more effectively.
  • A renewed focus on Intelligence gathering, road safety, criminal damage, internal business theft and victims of crime. 
  • Reducing ASB in the town centre, including begging (in doorways) and vacant premises squats.  This can be enforced by PCSO’s through a Dispersal Order involving the area and Dispersal Notices issued with the dispersal powers as provided under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, specifically Section 34 and 35.   
  • Upholding the Alcohol Restriction Zone, confiscating and disposing of alcohol being consumed in a designated place and confiscating alcohol from young persons. This can be enforced by PCSO’s through utilization of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 as authorised persons under Section 63.
  • Working with BedfordBID to support the Retail Radio Link and Exclusion scheme.
  • Assisting with town centre events (such as Love Bedford Day and the pre-lights Christmas event).

 

To start with, the PCSO’s will work from Greyfriars, and then be based at the new ‘hub’ in Lime Street (when opened). They will also have use of the BedfordBID office, with the expectation they will attend relevant BID meetings when required, such as the BedfordBID Retail RadioLink crime preventative initiative. 

Although the PCSO’s will predominantly patrol the town centre on foot, the decision to re-deploy the PCSO’s away from the town will remain with their Sgt, Inspector or the Duty Inspector in instances of emergency such as, for example, a high risk missing child in Kempston.   However, it is anticipated that this will only be in exceptional circumstances and will be a last resort when other resources have been exhausted.  A record of these instances will be kept and invoicing will be on a quarterly basis to enable adjustments in charges to be made, if applicable, to reflect those periods of town centre absence.

To begin with the PCSOs will work in pairs, one of which will be a highly experienced Officer familiar with BedfordBID, the town centre, its ‘characters’ and businesses .  After a month, they will patrol individually and cover each other when on rest day or leave. Their rota will also include an evening shift given the evening economy of the town which will enable issues to be tackled after 5pm.  If any of this does not prove fruitful we can change; the Bedfordshire Police very much want this to work also.

In addition, there is a parking aspect included within the agreement so that uniform police officers, and police vehicle presence in the Lurke Street multi-storey carpark, can be seen regularly in the Lurke Street area.  This has also facilitated bringing a police ‘hub’ to the Lime Street town centre location, opening later this year.  This arrangement is also future proofing for when Greyfriars Police Station finally closes, and part of the bigger picture of policing in the town centre which BedfordBID is working on with the Bedfordshire Police.

Whilst we are mindful of the issue of setting a precedent in terms of parking, and are also aware that businesses, council staff, volunteer charity workers etc., currently pay parking tariffs where required, the Directors of BedfordBID believe having PCSO’s and Police Officers parking in the Lurke Street multi-storey provides overarching benefits in terms of public safety, as well as a significant benefit for businesses.  We know there are a variety of ASB issues at Lurke Street car park, and these will be discouraged or curtailed through a visible policing presence.  We believe that a police vehicle presence in the Lurke Street car park, and officers exiting onto Howard Street, would clearly, from an operational perspective, aid in ongoing attempts to address unsolicited homeless rough sleepers, beggars and ASB in this area and help address some of the issues businesses are reporting including intimidation.  There are also ATMs in the vicinity which beggars target.

Furthermore, we are sensitive to the fact that some businesses may take the view that they, too, have put forward suggestions in the past regarding strategies for their staff to obtain parking in this prime location.  Clearly this is an issue that should not be ignored, but it is also an issue for another day. 

 We hope you will engage with us and share your views.  To remind you the next open Board |Meeting session will be on Wednesday 6th September @ 8.30am at the Bedford Swan hotel, when Directors will be available to discuss these plans. Alternatively, you can share your views with any BID Director, whose contact details can be found via this link http://www.lovebedford.co.uk/about/bedfordbid-board.php, or sending an email to BID or calling any of the BID team.  Please RSVP if you are able to join us at the Board Meeting by writing to victoria@lovebedford.co.uk.

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