Parks staff reveal secrets of tackling crime and antisocial behaviour at GreenSpace conference

Enforcement alone is not the answer to crime and antisocial behaviour in parks, according to parks staff and police.

A combination of diversionary activities and enforcement is most effective, particularly when organisations work in partnership.

Parks in Cardiff, Calderdale and Merseyside have reported reductions in problems such as illegal motorcycle riding, graffiti and underage drinking as a result of partnership approaches.

Former Royal Parks operational command unit commander Derek Pollock, speaking at the GreenSpace conference Making it Safe on 17 November, said: "Working in partnership underpins everything. No single agency has the means to succeed in isolation."

He admitted that the Royal Parks' budget was larger than that available to most local authorities, but argued that themes for tackling crime and antisocial behaviour were relevant in all parks.

These include increasing physical presence in parks, challenging people committing crime or antisocial behaviour, forming safer parks teams and getting involved in crime and disorder partnerships. In addition, engaging with users such as dog-walkers can provide extra "eyes and ears", Pollock suggested.

Dealing with criminal damage such as graffiti as soon as it happens can also help to prevent parks from falling into disrepair and becoming greater targets.

In Cardiff, the local authority has formed a partnership with businesses and police to tackle illegal motorbike riding. Young people caught riding motorbikes illegally in open spaces must sign an "acceptable behaviour" contract and are encouraged to work at an off-road track, funded by businesses, in exchange for free riding sessions.

Cardiff parks community liaison officer Peter Owens explained: "Enforcement on its own is not sustainable. We can throw resources at it but as soon as you turn your back, it starts creeping up again."

Merseyside Police neighbourhood inspector Steve Rice agreed that engagement with other bodies was essential. As part of the area's Operation Safe Space campaign, which ran during the summer holidays, the police organised diversionary activities for young people.

Partnering with residents' associations, schools, sports centres and social landlords helped the project to happen.


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