Southend community safety team to be doubled in size due to ‘spike’ in crime

Extra community safety officers are being drafted in to help tackle seafront drinking, mass brawls and town centre violence, as anti-social behavior spirals in Southend.

Eight new officers will double the size of the community safety team after a spike in incidents at Chalkwell Park, Old Leigh, Thorpe Bay Gardens and the seafront in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown.

This saw a car being driven at pedestrians during a brawl in Thorpe Bay, a 17-year-old stabbed in Chalkwell Park and a dispersal order placed in Old Leigh after hundreds gathered and were seen throwing glass bottles.

Councillor Martin Terry (Ind) said frustrated youngsters and workers on furlough “have been cooped up” and are meeting in large groups in public places.

He said: “What lays behind these problems is we have a lot of 16, 18, early 20 year olds who are not in education at the moment where they would normally would be, as well as about 20 per cent of working people in Southend on furlough.

“It is a lot of people effectively cooped up in their homes who want to get out and have fun and that has shown itself with people gathering in public spaces in far larger numbers than usual. Unfortunately, some of those people go too far.”

The new community safety officers will be employed on a temporary basis until September and during that time they will more than double the size of the existing team, taking it from six officers to 14.

Mr Martin Terry said: “Given the spike in anti-social behaviour which everyone has witnessed, we brought forward these plans to boost our resources with an extra eight officers on a temporary basis.”

Southend Council launched the community safety team in 2018 and it works alongside Essex Police to tackle a range of issues including domestic abuse, violence and town centre crime.

Mr Terry explained the new officers will join the team “imminently” and stressed it is the result of the existing problems in the borough rather than a direct response to the easing of the lockdown, which saw pubs re-open over the weekend.

The officers are only there on a temporary basis while Southend Council completes a full review of its frontline services and the way they operate across the borough.

Mr Terry said this review focuses on making the teams better connected.

It could mean that if the council’s highways team is out working on a street and they happen to witness an incident linked to anti-social behaviour, they will have an easier way of communicating with the council so it can be passed on to the community safety team or police if necessary.

Mr Terry added: “The aim is to look at all frontline staff out there working for the council.

“We want all of them to become our eyes and ears.

“We have pier officers, people working for highways, foreshore officers, all that low level stuff and we want to ensure that things are better reported and that we collect the proper information to deal with the problems.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter