Report of the Deputy Chief Executive (Place)
To consider the above petition, bearing 15 signatures, which has been submitted by Councillor O’Boyle, a St Michael’s Ward Councillor, who has been invited to the meeting for the consideration of this item along with the petition organiser.
The Cabinet Member considered a report of the Deputy Chief Executive (Place)
which responded to a petition bearing 15 signatures, sponsored by Councillor O’Boyle, a St Michaels Ward Councillor, which had been submitted to the City Council on 20th May, 2018. The petition was regarding concerns over; environmental issues, anti-social and criminal behaviour and a lack of police assistance in the vicinity of Winchester Street. The petition specifically mentioned acts of criminal damage to vehicles by persons unknown and the presence of litter throughout the area as a result of the activity of sex workers. Councillor O’Boyle and Councillor Welsh attended the meeting and spoke along with the petitioners in attendance. The Police were also in attendance and spoke to residents regarding the petition.
The report stated that the main issue concerned a spate of incidents between 18th and 19th May 2018 during which a large number of local resident’s vehicles were damaged. Residents felt that the police could have done more on this occasion. Another issue of concern was that the area was affected by litter which often included condoms which were believed to emanate from sex workers within the area. Residents wanted to know what could be done to ensure the area was kept in a clean state. Residents felt that the activity of the sex workers in the area make it an unsafe place for young children to play and grow up. This made the area look dirty and untidy and discouraged the children from playing outside. Residents were keen to have the issues addressed at the earliest opportunity.
The report detailed the recorded data regarding litter and refuse complaints from June 2017 to June 2018 which showed 30 reports directly related to Winchester Street. Of those reports, 18 were as a result of council officers logging the issues. Another notable street in the area was that of Colchester Street, due to the proximity of the 2 streets it is difficult to treat both in isolation, and over the same period June 2017 to June 2018, 68 reports were directly related to Colchester Street. Of those reports, 44 were as a result of council officers logging the issue.
Both streets were patrolled regularly, at least once a week by officers from the Neighbourhood Enforcement Team and referrals were made to ensure the area was kept clean. Officers also visit the area as a result of specific complaints as and when they were reported. The operatives also visit the neighbouring Raglan Street and Vauxhall Street every Friday and would pick up additional litter as and when they see it. In addition, specific visits were undertaken to collect reported fly tipping from council land. All cases of littering and fly tipping were investigated, with the appropriate course of action depending on any evidence found at the scene and witnesses to the offence(s).
Police data for the same period showed a total of 49 logs for Winchester Street and 69 logs for Colchester Street. A large proportion of these logs related to one individual who had been evicted from the area earlier this year. Other logs related to regular Police business and were not relevant for the purposes of this report. Police undertake targeted operations to educate those involved in sex work and enforce against those sex workers and the associated antisocial behaviour that it brings.
In response to the petition, officers from the Council and the Police had made contact with the lead petitioner. West Midlands Police and the Council were monitoring the situation. Extra patrols took place as duties allow and individuals found to be causing issues were challenged and appropriate action taken. The issues around the specific incidents on the 18th to 19th May 2018 form part of an ongoing police investigation and therefore the police were unable to comment further at this moment in time.
The report recommended ways to take this matter forward including monitoring the area, encouraging the establishment of Neighbourhood Watch and temporary deployment of cameras to the area.
The Ward Councillors and many of the residents present all provided further detail regarding the concerns of local residents. Their quality of life was being affected by the sex workers using the area, fly tipping, criminality in the area and their fear of crime. Examples were provided and included gardens being used by sex workers, a bottle thrown at children, observing drug use, children too scared to use gardens, fear for property damage, litter including condoms, needles and clothing.
The police sergeant present agreed to continue to monitor the area and to work with residents. They were taking action in the area however evidence was required.
Council officers agreed to visit the area and consider lighting and where to sight the CCTV and signage and to provide a contact for assistance with Neighbourhood Watch.
The Cabinet Member discussed contacting Whitefriars and timescales.
RESOLVED that the Cabinet Member for Policing and Equalities
1) Request West Midlands Police and Council officers to continue their monitoring of the area and respond accordingly to residents requests for assistance.
2) Encourage residents to set up a Neighbourhood Watch in the area and report incidents of concern to Police and the Council as soon as they occur.
3) Approve the installation of CCTV and signage within the area to deter antisocial and criminal activity.
4) Councillor Khan to write to Whitefriars regarding liaising with Council officers about concerns within the area, relating to the behaviour of its tenants and a row of garages owned by them, as well as any other matters.
5) Officers to explore the possibility of increasing lighting in parts of the area.