Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner -  
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Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway has labelled human waste left by travellers at Brickhill “an absolute disgrace” calling for greater powers for police to deal with illegal encampments and backing Bedfordshire MP Andrew Selous in a parliamentary debate on traveller issues, including preventing illegal camps, this week. (7pm Wednesday 12 2016)

In the past ten days three illegal camps were established in Bedford, on recreational space at Wentworth Drive and on Waveney Green at Brickhill, near a children’s playground, following which travellers moved a few hundred yards away to another green space on Brickhill Drive. The PCC was sent photographs of human waste, toilet paper and litter on the abandoned Waveney Green site after the travellers moved on. She brought it to the attention of senior officers and the police moved to evict the travellers from the Brickhill Drive site to which they had moved. (today, Tuesday 11 October 2016)

“It’s an absolute disgrace and completely unacceptable that any open space, let alone a public area where children play and people walk their dogs is treated in this way. It’s a health hazard and a disgusting affront to any standard of civilised behaviour. The encampments are also a substantial drain on limited policing resources and the law is inadequate to allow police to move them on more swiftly.

“Last week the Waveney Green site was being visited by police every two hours, with particular attention at school opening and exit times and rush hours, because a level of anti-social behaviour and criminality has to be reached before the police can use so-called Section 61 and 62 powers. Every time it was visited there was no sign of human waste and litter was in bins but, after the camp moved on a short distance, photographs were sent to me showing evidence of exactly this behaviour,” said the Commissioner.

“The Chief Constable and I met with South West Bedfordshire MP Andrew Selous last Friday when I detailed the sort of uplift in legal powers that we want to see so that we can put an end to these illegal encampments which intimidate local residents and mean they do not feel able to use the recreational spaces they have a right to enjoy.

“Andrew Selous has seen similar activity in his own constituency with repeated illegal camps in Dunstable, preventing residents from using the skateboard park and bowling alley and leaving others intimidated when it comes to enjoying the recreation centre, where travellers have been going to use the washing facilities. It’s well documented that human faeces and fly-tipping were left behind in Dunstable centre too this summer so this behaviour is affecting both the North and South of the county and the Chief Constable and I will not allow ungoverned space in Bedfordshire,” she said.

Andrew Selous MP said the skateboard park in Dunstable could not be used, according to a mother in his constituency “for much of the summer because of 10 unauthorised traveller encampments next to it. The skate park was being defecated on and local children had their bikes stolen. Other mothers have said that their children have been too scared to go to the leisure centre for their swimming lessons as they find the travellers very intimidating.”

The PCC announced that she is backing Bedfordshire’s Chief Constable, Jon Boutcher, in his call for a Gold Group of senior police, Andrew Selous as a former Minister at the Ministry of Justice, and leaders of local authorities to pull together all their civil and criminal powers and responsibilities to unite to disrupt illegal encampments in the county in what Mr Boutcher calls a “Team Bedfordshire” approach. Central Bedfordshire Council leader James Jamieson also attended last Friday’s meeting.

“We need to work with local authorities who are required to provide transit sites so that police have somewhere where such travellers can go. In Bedford Borough, for example, although the need for such a site was identified in 2012 it still does not exist. We also need councils to use their anti-social behaviour powers, called Section 77, but they are reluctant to do so because it involves them in the expense of going to court. This is not just a police matter as the law makes it clear that the local authority is the lead agency in such cases,” said the Commissioner.

“In some areas the councils, including Bedford Borough, have been involved in effective target hardening – raising earthworks around recreation sites to make it impossible for caravans and other vehicles to get onto the grassed areas. This is something which police cannot do but which is essential to make it more difficult for these encampments to take root. In fact today we made our Acting Superintendent for the North available to accompany Bedford’s council staff to point out other areas which she had identified where this could be done. (Tuesday 11 October 2016)

“This is not just a policing issue, but one for all of us to attack together, and in this Force we are determined to send a message that enough is enough and work in a properly joined-up way to put an end to a problem causing a misery for residents and a sapping of resources for the police.”

The Commissioner also confirmed that the Chief Constable has appointed a new Superintendent, who grew up in Bedfordshire’s rural community, to pull together the Force’s enhanced strategy with regard to issues with travellers’ illegal encampments and intimidation of residents.