Notton PACT (Partners And Communities Together)
I went to the Notton PACT meeting yesterday evening, just as an interested resident, and thought I’d give some information and make a few personal observations. There may be a more official record of the meeting and I’ll post a link if I get one.
Notton is part of the ‘Wakefield Rural’ ‘Policing Neighbourhood’, part of the ‘Wakefield Division’ of the West Yorkshire Police Authority – here is a link to the Wakefield Rural page on the West Yorkshire Police website
Wakefield Rural covers Agbrigg, Crigglestone, Crofton, Durkar, Kettlethorpe, Middlestown, Netherton, Newmillerdam, Sandal, Walton, Woolley & surrounding areas – and the crime figures and statistics which the officers started the meeting with were for a much larger and more diverse area than just Notton and didn’t seem particularly relevant to me. However, when local, Notton, issues were discussed it was evident, from residents, that the two main ones were littering/fly-tipping and an associated issue of the anti-social and intimidating behaviour of some young people who are stealing wheelie bins, taking them to clearings beside country footpaths and setting fire to them as the centre-piece of their drug and alchohol fuelled parties.
Now I’m tempted to say it sounds just like another Notton barbeque – and why wasn’t I invited? – but for the people who live near these places that have their bins stolen (one family – seven times last year), and are disturbed by the noise and intimidated – and for the rest of us who want to walk in the countryside without having to see and clear-up the mess that is left behind, it is no joke!
Apparently this issue was made a ‘priority’ by the Neighbourhood Police last year and it subsided – so it comes off the priority list – but with the good weather it has started again, so the officers last night said they would ask to get regular patrols of the affected localities put back on the priority list. If anyone who sees such activity could report it, that would help – call 101 to report information and for non-urgent response, or 999 for emergency/urgent response. Probably best not to try to intervene yourself – except, maybe, if someone is in immediate serious danger – report it and maybe keep note of what is happening without exposing yourself to confrontation. Let the professionals handle it.
In regard to follow-up and ‘outcomes’ – detection, investigation, arrest, prosecution and sentencing – and how it is reported back to the surrounding community for both deterrent effect and encouraging residents to report and inform the Police – I think there is a long way to go. Catching the offenders with enough evidence to prosecute them is only the first bit. They may be too young for criminal prosecution, they may come from ‘across the border’ in South Yorkshire, and there is pressure for Police resources to be ‘out on the beat’ not in the office following-up that ‘beat’ work. Those resources are limited, they need to be used in ways which are shown by experience and legitimate research to be effective – not as part of a politically motivated PR exercise. It might make the majority feel safer when they regularly see a local Police presence – but when you are, here and now, suffering the effects of a crime you want the Police to respond quickly, follow-up effectively, publicise it to deter other would-be offenders and let you know what has been done.
The other main issue, fly-tipping and major littering, had several facets including the role of the Local Authority (Wakefield District Council) and Notton Parish Council and liaison with the neighbouring Barnsley District Council and South Yorkshire Police. For example; the Police will get involved but it is WMDC who are mainly responsible for regulating and clearing-up the mess – I’m not sure where the demarcation of responsibilities lies but I don’t think the Police will respond urgently to a report of fly-tipping in progress. And if the fly-tippers go just off the Public Highway onto private land then the council wont shift it. Even if you collect ‘evidence’ from the tipped waste it may not be enough to convict the perpetrator – there may be a document with a name or address in the rubbish, but that person could claim they paid someone else to clear a house, or whatever.
It seems to me that the problems of fly-tipping in the lanes around Notton need a bit of analysis before we can address it directly. There may be some general research available and WMDC may have some specific ideas of who, why, where, when, and how this activity happens and what is being done about it – there is supposed to be a department in the LA (Local Authority) which deals with this but we haven’t seen much evidence of anything happening. It could be tied up with official tips not being plentiful enough, or in the right places, or open at the right times – but where is the tipping coming from is it from Barnsley area or Wakefield and who should pay for the extra costs of more/open tips? Wakefield are paying for the cost of clearing up now but if they made official tipping easier and stopped charging for small commercial waste tipping would people come from surrounding, charging, areas to tip? It becomes a strategic decision for local, regional and National government and our local, Notton, issue gets lost.
I think we need to concentrate on specific, local costs and benefits of local initiatives. So how much does it cost Wakefield MDC to clear-up fly-tipping on say Keeper Lane and/or Smawell Lane each year? Are they prepared to invest that amount in, say providing and emptying skips in the car park at the top of Smawell Lane and in what used to be a car park on the A61 opposite the bottom of Keeper Lane? Would they just overflow and become a general tips without the cost of supervision? – which implies they wouldn’t be open all the time and so wouldn’t solve the problem. Or could we rely on regulation by installing cameras, maybe with number plate recognition, at the top and bottom of the lanes – the technology exists for solar battery powered, low-light, cameras connected to the Internet through mobile phone networks – but the photographs would need monitoring and acting on which implies a wider network solution (could it be tied into existing LA or Police security camera networks and procedures? Does such a network exist already?). Will WMDC pay assuming they will save on clearing-up costs, can the parish council raise money through the rates or from other funds?
I just publish this website – I don’t know the answers to the above issues but I’m prepared to do some research if there is any chance of something happening. We need some more discussion and ideas – anyone care to comment?