On Monday 10th January 2022, Chesil Radio attended the open meeting of the Littlemoor Safety Forum at the community centre on Canberra Road in Littlemoor, Dorset.
Our Nikki attended as there had been many negative stories coming from this estate and was saddened to hear how life was becoming difficult for residents. This was initially to hear all agencies actions on the situation and hear the local residents views. Nikki found herself next to councillor and local news paper at the front, being introduced to the group and residents, which she was later to discover why.
There were many officials not attending, some due to Covid or their company's Covid policies, that may have had input into the meeting, but proceeded to start on the big subject of anti-social behaviour. Initially the residents were reluctant to speak to ask the police questions, so the manager of Home Bargains in the shopping precinct opened the questions.
The police are aware of the situation, and have in some cases, visited the individuals of the main group of about 20 young people between the ages of 10 and 17 approximately, who seems to be the main issue with these incidents. The residents were quick to say that they were in the minority and the current facilities for young people being closed may have an impact on these behaviours and this group of young people believe that the young people are bored. The ages of the minority causing issues, was also a problem. Anti-Social Behaviour orders are civil matters and if the police ban people from the area under their powers, they can only do so during the opening hours of the shops in the precinct. The shops themselves can ban people from inside their premises, but it didn't help the anti-social behaviour intimidating actual shoppers outside. The home bargains manager, pointed out that they will always prosecute shoplifters, the anti-social behaviour was affecting how the store functions before it opens, while open and when it's closed. It doesn't seem to be getting any better at present and wanted to pass on ideas to how they could help with their head office. There was a mention of knife threats being made, and the residents have been assured that the young people have been searched by the police, and in most cases, nothing was found on them. It wasn't just Home Bargains affected as someone commented about McColls newsagents, whose staff have been confronted and their policy is to lock the doors and call the police. Unfortunately, this shop is the only place to obtain electric, gas, etc top-up via keys and residents although understood this policy, were also concerned about their safety, if they had to wait for the police arrival to sort issues to obtain their essential purchases for their homes.
The police were praised for their prompt arrival when called and that they were to get together with the shops concerned to discuss further measures at a separate private meeting. One of the councillors commented that residents may not know that the council does not own the land where the shopping precinct is and is privately owned by a company in London, which does limit the actions the police can take. Another councillor mentioned the CCTV coverage, which at this stage, is just the ones outside of the car park area edge and those in the shops. Home Bargains does have some cameras that cover the car park, but residents said that this was not discouraging the young people's activities. It was suggested that maybe, the police could be visiting hot spots without uniform, and this had been done before, and will be fed back as a suggestion for the future.
One of the group of young people, has been moved from the area, but as residents said someone else has obviously stepped up. Dorset Council has started visiting the estate on a Thursday evening, it's a small youth team, so options for other nights is not possible, they have been interacting with this group, and although some suggestions to them were not welcomed, they will continue to work with them to try and engage to stop these issues being more intrusive and hopefully cut them in the long-term.
Everyone accepted that it wasn't an overnight solution to this problem, and would take time to bring the incidents down. The Dorset Council's long-term goal is perhaps their intervention, including schools. as well as the youth support work, will assist the police with less time taken up by the young adults causing trouble and by not being in a uniform may make these interactions easier. The social services team are working with the parents and looking at their home life, which is also a factor for many. It was pointed out that the community needs to be a little more supportive of these individuals, and as angry as they may be and also the response that they were receiving from the young people, rather than it escalating, the 101 service will be happy to help.
They moved onto the second item on the agenda, which was Bad Press, which Nikki knew nothing about. The Dorset Echo representative, who has only been with the paper for a year, and not from the local area for long, was bombarded and questioned about how they obtained their news stories. He said that they had to sell papers, so the headlines and stories were more popular when they had a crime element. He said that stories about someone placing flower pots were not newsworthy. At this point, Nikki had to stop herself and put her hand up to speak. Residents were saying that they wanted to hear good stories, and an example about an good OFSTED rating for a school hadn't been reported. The Echo person was told during the pandemic that Littlemoor was getting good stories printed, but this seemed to drop off. One of the councillors did step in and say that they didn't want to "lynch the Echo". Nikki had her opportunity to speak, and said "We love good news stories, and are happy to hear them. If someone has put flower pots out to make their area look nice, we want to hear about it. In the past couple of years, we have been through a lot, and there is a place for good news!" Nikki handed out our new business cards to anyone who was interested in sending in news stories, events, etc for the future and will be here on Chesil Radio, both in written format and on air as appropriate.
There were a few other issues, which came up as the police and Dorset council representatives had to leave. There is a litter pick on the 19th February at 11am at Community Hall, there will be a lunch break with soup and rolls at 12.30pm. This is just for Littlemoor residents and roads will be allocated nearest to their home as possible. They are looking for Littlemoor individuals, who have time to train to use a speeding camera, and has 10 hours a month free, to carry out checks. Reassurances were that the information is passed to the police to action any speeding issues. A table top sale from homes is arranged for the 18th April at just £2 to be added to a map, once again in the Littlemoor area only. A discussion on broken kerb stones brought the meeting to an end and another couple of minor discussions. The next meeting is on 4th April, however there was some discussion that if possible there may be an interim meeting, if a suitable venue and/or funds found to hold it.
Nikki would like to thank the Littlemoor Safety Forum for allowing Chesil Radio to attend. For more information on the next meeting and/or events, you must be a Littlemoor resident to get involved, please email: Tony at firstname.lastname@example.org.