Every force to get at least £1m to ‘ramp up’ ASB hotspot patrols

Every police force in England and Wales will receive at least £1 million to “ramp up patrols” to tackle violence and disorder, targeted in areas with high levels of anti-social behaviour, the Home Office has announced.

Feb 15, 2024
By Paul Jacques
Picture: College of Policing

It estimates that the total funding of around £66 million for England and Wales will enable each force to deploy uniformed patrols for up to 20,000 hours in ‘hotspot’ areas each year.

Across all 43 forces areas, this will support between 600,000 and 900,000 hours of hotspot patrols over the next year.

The Home Office says this will not only help to drive down crime, but also boost public confidence in their local force.

This approach has already been piloted in ten areas, with more than 80,000 hours of patrols in the six months since it launched.

This has led to nearly 600 arrests, close to 1,500 stop and searches and around 700 uses of anti-social behaviour powers, such as community protection notices and public protection orders.

In one of the pilot areas, the ‘hotspot’ approach has helped cut anti-social behaviour by more than 40 per cent in Brunswick, Lancashire, according to data from the police and crime commissioner. While in Essex, the police have reported that incidents of anti-social behaviour in Southend have almost halved in the past 12 months with hotspots in specific areas in the city playing a key role in this.

The Home Office says the funding of £66 million will be targeted in areas where there is high prevalence of violence, anti-social behaviour, and illegal public drug consumption, which not only makes communities feel less safe but can fuel drug-related violence.

Steve Turner, Association of Police and Crime Commissioners joint lead on local policing, said: “Anti-social behaviour is a blight on so many people’s lives, undermining their sense of security and wellbeing.

“The anti-social behaviour hotspot pilots have demonstrated what can be achieved by concentrating efforts on problem areas and following a zero-tolerance approach to drug taking, loitering and fly-tipping.

“Police and crime commissioners (PCCs) know from their engagement with communities, how the public want the tackling of anti-social behaviour to be prioritised and PCCs have led in the development of the direct approaches used in the ten pilot areas, involving the deployment of both police officers and community-based wardens.

“PCCs welcome the funding for this initiative to be extended to every force area in England and Wales and will continue to work directly with the public to ensure that the areas and activities targeted are both effective and visible.”

In a further bid to tackle illicit drug crimes, the Government has also set an ambitious new target to smash another 1,000 County Lines by August. This will bring the total number of County Lines dismantled to more than 3,000 since the drug strategy launched in April 2022, with the Government already reaching its initial target to shut down 2,000 lines by 2025 well ahead of schedule.

This has included arresting and charging hundreds of dangerous criminals who controlled these lines.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Anti-social behaviour destroys communities and takes away the public’s right to feel safe in the place they call home.

“Our plan to cut crime on our streets is working, with neighbourhood crime, including robbery and theft, almost halved, and we must stick with it.

“We will not stop until every person, no matter where they live, can feel safe and proud of their community. That is why we are investing in every police force in England and Wales so they can tackle violence and disorder head on.”

Home Secretary James Cleverly added: “Getting more officers out and visible in communities is vital for public confidence. We have delivered 20,000 additional police officers and we’re making sure they are tackling those visible crimes, like anti-social behaviour, which have a corrosive effect on people’s sense of safety.

“Our plan will put more officers on patrol in local communities up and down the country – an approach that has been proven to work, to help ensure that people are not only safe, but that they feel safe, in their neighbourhoods.”

At his first National Policing Board meeting last month, the Home Secretary announced that tackling visible crime is one of his top priorities for police given the impact it has on public confidence.

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Prophet, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for anti-social behaviour, said: “Tackling violence on our streets and anti-social behaviour in our communities are top priorities for policing because they can have such a corrosive impact on people’s lives and wider society.

“Residents often tell us they want to see more uniformed officers out in their local area and this additional funding will not only help forces to enhance their current activity, but it will enable them to target their resources to hotspot areas, where criminal activity is most concentrated and areas most at risk of harm.

“I welcome any measure which helps to reduce reports of anti-social behaviour, violence and disorder and show our communities just how seriously we take these issues.”

Case study 1: Lancashire Constabulary

Using trial funding Lancashire Constabulary has delivered visible policing hours across the county to deal with anti-social behaviour. After six months of hotspot policing in Brunswick, Blackpool, reported anti-social behaviour has decreased by 42 per cent compared to the same period last year and public confidence in the police tackling anti-social behaviour in the area has increased by 7.9 per cent. Work in Brunswick has included the creation of a monthly PACT (Police and Communities Together) meeting in Brunswick to allow residents and community members and local councillors to positively engage with local officers and relay any concerns that they have.

Case study 2: Essex Police

Anti-social behaviour in Southend overall is down by 50 per cent with 1,768 fewer offences reported in the year to the end of January 2024 compared to the previous 12 months. Hotspot patrols in two areas in the city have played a leading role in this, as well policing activity across the city.  Hotspot patrols were carried out in Southchurch Road zone where there had been issues with anti-social behaviour from youths in the park, and reports of homeless people congregating, as well as sex workers and drug-related activity in the stairwells. While in the area surrounding Maple Square, a residential area, there had been issues related to drug dealing and nuisance behaviour. The hotspot patrols in both areas have helped to tackle anti-social behaviour and results so far have been very positive.

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