Police are set to start staging special beat surgeries as they step up efforts to crack down on repeated anti-social behaviour at a Market Harborough park.
Sgt Ryan Coleman said they hope to start holding the outdoors get-togethers with fed-up residents living around Little Bowden Recreation Ground off Northampton Road on Friday and Saturday nights.
Based at Market Harborough police station, Sgt Coleman spoke at a virtual public meeting set up tonight (Wednesday) to listen to and address angry local people’s issues and concerns.
Chaired by Cllr Simon Whelband, Harborough council’s cabinet lead for communities and wellbeing, the online public forum went ahead after a wave of incidents involving heavy drinking, drug-taking, loud music and rubbish being strewn around at the park over the last few weeks.
Sgt Coleman said police have had a “constant presence” at Little Bowden rec with both uniformed and plains clothes officers out on patrol there.
He said they had recently arrested people at the park over supplying drugs as well as for violence offences.
“We have done more reports (about the park) on our Sentinel (computer) system than ever before,” said Sgt Coleman.
Quizzed about under-age drinking, the officer said police beat teams have confiscated drink off over 20 young people – including five in the last week alone.
“We will always take action to prevent them getting even more drunk,” insisted Sgt Coleman.
Tom Day, a service manager at Harborough council, said they could look at imposing a temporary alcohol ban after a catalogue of reports of late-night drinking parties in the park.
He said a deployable CCTV camera has been set up in an attempt to catch offenders and criminals while a new permanent camera is to be sited near the children’s play area very shortly.
A furious resident said that “large groups of feral youths” have been drinking and taking drugs in the big open space for months – effectively denying it to families and youngsters.
They accused the authorities of “dragging their feet”.
But Sgt Coleman said officers have searched 17 homes in the last year as they executed magistrates’ warrants as they crack down on drug-dealing in Market Harborough.
Last night Cllr Phil King, the leader of Harborough council, gave his reaction to the Harborough Mail after he tuned in to the 65-minute meeting.
“It’s a difficult format because pre-Covid we’d have definitely held a face-to-face public meeting on these serious issues revolving around Little Bowden rec.
“But I’d tell the people who live around this park – we are listening to you.
“This is a work in progress,” admitted Cllr King.
“But the police have made a big commitment to hold new beat surgeries there on Friday and Saturday nights – and that’s got to be good.
“They have admitted that they have to improve their communications with local people.
“This is a big step forward.
“We are not perfect.
“But there is a much wider issue here.
“This is about building up and gaining the community’s confidence,” said the Conservative council boss.
“The police need the people’s help – they can’t do it all by themselves.
“They need vital local intelligence from the scene – who did what, why and when.
“It’s no good just sticking your thoughts down and expressing your emotions on Facebook.
“Call the police – or use Crimestoppers to give officers the information they need.
“It’s not easy for either the council or the police because Harborough is a huge rural district covering 250 square miles.
“We face many challenges on multiple fronts.
“But I am very positive that we are all heading in the right direction,” said Cllr King.
“I’d urge residents living around the park – please act as our eyes and ears on the ground at Little Bowden rec.
“Tell both us and the police what is going on there.
“Do that, stay in touch and together we can start to get on top of these anti-social behaviour, drinking and drugs problems at this wonderful park.”