AN EMERGING multi-agency partnership is quietly but assuredly tackling town centre safety across the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole region.

Collaborative community safety is the driving force behind a working partnership between BCP Council, Dorset Police and town BIDs which is successfully reducing anti-social behaviour and low-level crime.

From security guards on the street to bobbies on the beat, the Daily Echo spent an afternoon with those behind the new partnership which saw a 25 per cent summer crime drop in Bournemouth’s open spaces following a £2m cash injection.

The control room at Bournemouth Police Station is described as the “heart” of the operation. Camera operators monitor three large screens littered with live CCTV images 24/7. The council has some 600 cameras the operators have access to, 200 of which are in Bournemouth town centre.

Bournemouth Echo: Section of the control room at Bournemouth Police StationSection of the control room at Bournemouth Police Station (Image: Dorset Police)

Operators use the extensive CCTV network to track offenders of serious crime in real time, provide essential intel and act as ‘eyes in the back of the head’ for on-the-ground officers.

Hotspots are routinely targeted by officers, who have become familiar faces in places like Old Christchurch Road, the Lower Gardens and Westover Road.

When comparing reported crime rates across the peak summer seasons from April to August 2021 and then April to August 2022, there was a 25.59 per cent reduction during the summer 2022 season. There is anecdotal evidence to support that the presence of proactive patrols by security, CSAS and police in key areas acted as a strong deterrent.

However, this is not solely down to arrests and prison sentences according to chief inspector Darren Harris, who said targeted initiatives such as Operation Fireglow in the Lower Gardens are aided by unseen follow up work by council youth, family and homeless services.

He said: “While high vis patrols deter and detect, the work in the background where the partnership works with families and individuals has a real impact on stopping those people going back into the Gardens and reoffending. It’s not just about tackling it on the ground, it’s about giving support and engagement behind the scenes.”

Bournemouth Echo: CSAS officers assist Dorset Police in Bournemouth town centre.CSAS officers assist Dorset Police in Bournemouth town centre. (Image: NQ)

His words were echoed by CSAS seasonal response lead Frankie Kingsbury, who said the partnership allowed authorities to best utilise tactics which try to steer clear of arrests. She said: “For us it’s all about that early intervention. From our perspective, especially when you’re dealing with begging, rough sleeping or street drinking, we’re not just going in and enforcing – we’re going in and engaging.

“We want to know their circumstances because some of these people have had a really tough time, and we don’t know that until we make that effort to chat to them and work with all our partners to help them.”

Officials who form part of the partnership are:

  • Security officers – insight and deterrence
  • Town Rangers – Bournemouth BID funded, support traders in dealing with shoplifters
  • Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (CSAS) officers – patrolling officers with some delegated police powers
  • Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) – can issue dispersal orders and detain offenders
  • Police constables

The impact the presence of these officers has on the community is clear. When the Echo went on an on-foot patrol through Bournemouth town centre with PC Chris Lee and CSAS officer Cat Brookfield, numerous residents stopped them to engage with queries and concerns.

Bournemouth Echo: CSAS officer Cat Brookfield engages with resident in Bournemouth town centreCSAS officer Cat Brookfield engages with resident in Bournemouth town centre (Image: Newsquest)

One estate agent, upon seeing the officers walk by, jumped out to ask them for advice on how she could improve her personal safety while alone in the office. A panic button and improved CCTV was suggested.

Over the past year, recorded police incidents of environmental, nuisance and personal ASB have been at their lowest in more than four years.

BCP Council’s baseline funding provision going in to the 2022/23 financial year for these services across the region was £1.7m.

A series of additional investments made earlier this year includes:

  • £100,000 towards improving CCTV in urban areas, with an additional £60,000 for increased CCTV monitoring.
  • £200,000 to support additional CSAS officers and a greater security presence

The council side of the partnership is spearheaded by head of communities Kelly Ansell and community safety portfolio holder Cllr Bobbie Dove who said the funding was essential to keep anti-social behaviour numbers down.

“I can come and say politically this is a priority because it’s working, so don’t stop what you’re doing because here’s tangible evidence that it is working, so let’s boost it.”

Bournemouth Echo:

She also stated how cameras set up to tackle fly tipping ended up helping secure a conviction in a recent murder trial.

As a next step, BCP Council is considering a possible Coastal and Open Spaces Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) following a feasibility assessment which identified six behaviours which meet the legislative criteria for consideration.

PSPOs are intended to deal with anti-social behaviours within a particular area by imposing restrictions on activities in that area which apply to everyone. Failure to comply with a PSPO is a criminal offence and can result in prosecution.

A public consultation on this will be held by the end of January.