Preston has been branded a lout capital of Lancashire as anti-social behaviour reaches new heights in the city.
Latest figures show a staggering 9,512 incidents were reported in 2016 in the borough – an average of 26 a day.
While incidents fell in both Chorley and Lancaster, and South Ribble’s stayed roughly the same, the number dealt with by police in Preston shot up by almost four per cent.
With Lancashire now highlighted by HM Inspector of Constabulary as a trouble hotspot, the county’s Police Federation chairman Rachel Baines warned that officers were finding it more difficult to deal with the rise in calls.
Mrs Baines said: “There’s no doubt in my mind that a visible police presence acts as a deterrent. When that presence is not there, there’s more of an incentive to behave in an anti-social manner.
“It has a huge impact on peoples lives so it should not been dismissed as a lesser crime that anything else, and certainly people affected by it want a police presence when they report something, but it’s becoming more and more difficult for police to respond because of the cuts.
“Clearly, fewer resources will mean an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour. It’s frustrating to offers because they can’t get to everything they want to.”
In Lancashire, reports of anti-social behaviour rose to more than 76,000 in 2016, and the county was named as a national hotspot in recent report by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.
Only two forces had a higher rate of incidents than Lancashire, once population was taken into account, and the Lancashire Post can today expose the streets and neighbourhoods that attracted the most complaints.
While one rural area on the fringes of the county saw just five reports made across the entire year, Preston’s Market Street alone was home to 131 incidents - more than one every three days.
The 10 worst streets in the city attracted 749 complaints, according to analysis of the data published on police.uk.
One city centre area - stretching from Corporation Street to the A6 and Moor Lane to Church Street - saw 857 incidents logged in 12 months. Only two areas, both in Blackpool, had more.
Taylor Street and Brixey Street in the Broadgate area, which has suffered issues with youths causing nuisance, had 73 and 68 reports respectively.
What’s been happening?
Two years ago, a crackdown on youths ‘ruining people’s lives’ on city estates was launched when police raided a Moor Nook home filled with fireworks officers suspected were being sold to the gang behind a crime spree.
Dispersal orders barring a number of children from the area were handed out in Ribbleton after officers were pelted with fireworks and punched. Waverley Park was one particular problem hotspot.
A number of calls about travellers on Moor Park will have affected the number of anti-social behaviour reports in the area last year, with erratic driving and littering among the problems caused by those staying in 10 caravans.
Blackpool Road resident Peter Walmsley said: “I’ve seen lots of dirty nappies, pillows and abandoned vehicles across the park.”
But the park has continued to face problems, with police increasing the number of offices patrolling the park after reports of yobs throwing stones at buses and cars last month.
Three buses had to be taken off the road on Tuesday because windows were smashed as they drove past the skate park. And a 13-year-old boy was attacked, twice, this month at the skate park, but police say it was in relation to a dispute between two boys, and not related to the anti-social behaviour and stone throwing. Coun Robert Boswell, cabinet member for community and environment, said the council was doing “what we can”.
Also last year, Ingol Neighbourhood Council set aside £25,000 to pay for a PCSO because of worries over rising levels of anti-social behaviour.
Chairman Bill McGrath said the area has lost two PCSOs and a Community Beat Manager in recent years, and added: “I made a promise to the community when I was elected that I would make anti-social behaviour my top priority.
“I am now doing everything in my power to fulfil that promise.”
Business leaders said public toilets in Lune Street in the city centre were having a ‘dreadful’ impact on businesses in August.
Police, paramedics and council chiefs have been called to the site on numerous occasions, with city leaders said to be monitoring the situation.
Fred Rolfe, of Lune Street Fish and Chips, said: “No one ever uses them for the use they are intended for, and it’s having a detrimental effect on business. “All the old people are terrified to walk through, it’s having a dreadful effect.”
A month later, councillor Sue Prynn said street pastors could address anti-social behaviour in an area of Penwortham.
Her suggestion, along with a call for better CCTV, was made in response to problems in Kingsfold.
Tara Barton, 33, of Hawksbury Drive, Kingsfold, was given a court order in a last-ditch bid to make her change her ways in January – after throwing paint on her neighbour’s car and allowing her dog to bark round the clock.
The court heard Barton’s landlord had received numerous complaints about Ms Barton since November 2012.
What have the police said?
“The term ‘anti-social behaviour’ covers a range of offences including, but not limited to, vandalism, hate crime, fireworks misuse, hoax calls and alcohol or drugs being used or dealt in the street. It also includes reports of street drinking and begging.
“It can involve harm to an individual, to the wider community or to the environment, and can leave victims feeling harassed, alarmed or distressed.
“We understand that this can have a profound impact on victims and how safe they feel in their neighbourhood, and we – along with partners such as the fire service, social housing landlords and other community safety agencies – are committed to tackling this type of crime.
“Our neighbourhood officers regularly hold PACT (Police and Communities Together) meetings and online ePACT meetings on local Facebook pages, and we regularly meet with partner agencies to address community priorities and decide what will be done to tackle these.
“Anybody experiencing problems with anti-social behaviour is urged to contact their neighbourhood policing team on 101, or 999 in an emergency.
“More information about anti-social behaviour and which agency is best placed to deal with a specific complaint can be found at https://lancashire.police.uk/help-advice/safer-communities/anti-social-behaviour/”
How are police tackling this?
Lancashire Police was rated ‘good’ by inspectors for the way it works to tackle anti-social behaviour and keep people safe.
In a report earlier this month, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary wrote: “Lancashire Constabulary works hard to understand risks in local communities.
“The constabulary uses a range of effective approaches and tactics to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.
“Neighbourhood policing across the constabulary is seen as ‘everybody’s job’.”
The report highlighted the use of an early action approach - preventing problems before they escalate - and regular risk assessments with other organisations to tackle the issue.
It adds the use of community protection notices - working alongside the probation service and social housing providers - has seen a success rate of between 80 and 90 per cent in helping prevent repeat problems and save thousands of hours of police time.
What are people saying?
City centre councillor Drew Gale, who spoke out after quiet Glovers Court was wrongly branded the most-crime ridden in England and Wales by a government website in 2011, said he suspects beggars and the homeless are behind the huge number of reports in the middle of Preston.
He said: “Any given city centre has issues with anti-behaviour and begging. Is it a problem? Yes. But is it manageable? Yes.
“The police and council have a strategy and are issuing anti-social behaviour orders. There is a scheme in place which is moving forward and will work, but it needs time.”
Labour borough councillor Matthew Lynch, who represents Astley and Buckshaw, said: “I’m aware that police have had a number of instances where they have literally taking kids back to their parents’ houses. “Extra PCSOs have been put in place to keep up the police presence in the village and the new community beat manager is in place.
“The issues are very low level but they have a massive influence in community confidence.
“What we need is increased presence which will build up the confidence again that has been lost locally.”
When asked about Brixey Street and Taylor Street, Riversward ward councillor Peter Kelly added: “There is some anti-social behaviour activity, however that has been reduced.
“We encourage people to report it.”