THE WAR against anti-social behaviour needs support from residents, says the police officer leading the fightback in Tavistock.

Residents have been complaining about an upsurge in offences including vandalism, begging, shoplifting, public drinking and drunken behaviour and assaults. In the last few weeks there have been two attacks on the Bedford Square toilets (including arson and a serious assault when a man sustained an arm injury during a night out) and drug offences.

Community policing manager Sgt Tom Ottley is aware of residents’ concern and has appealed for help in gathering evidence about offences, so he can arrest and charge perpetrators. He needs people to report offences.

“We the police have a very good idea about who the main repeat offenders are, just like so many other people in the town, but we as the police need actual evidence, such eyewitness accounts, written down before we can act on them and have any chance of them being charged and convicted and action taken to reduce their impact on the community. In this way I can analyse the data and direct my recourse

He is also urging the authorities to give him the legal powers and other tools to be able to nip problems in the bud before they get out of hand and to gather evidence on crimes. The latter includes using CCTV to gather video evidence of crimes and to act as a deterrent - even if the video is not constantly monitored.

Sgt Ottley said: “Once I have the people’s priorities, which so far, very closely match what we understand as community officers, we need the evidence, followed by the tools to back up our powers. These include CCTV which can be fitted to existing lamp posts and other fixtures without affecting the World Heritage site buildings.

“CCTV can provide us with visual evidence of crimes that have been committed and they don’t even need to be monitored. If we know when and where a crime has been committed we can look at recordings. This was the case with a sex assault in Okehampton. CCTV also acts as a deterrent, even if it’s not monitored. CCTV can reduce crime by 12% even unmonitored and up to 40% when monitored.”

He said there was significant potential for reducing crime through improved reporting based on good relationships with business and the public, especially when repeat offenders commit 90% of crime.

To help him clear the offenders off the streets Sgt Ottley would also like businesses and local councils to back the extension of the public space protection orders (PSPO) to throughout the town, from where they work well on the Meadows deterring often alcohol-related misbehaviour. However, this has merely led to offences being displaced to Bedford Square.

Sgt Ottley added:”I am urging the local authority to extend the PSPO to much wider than the Meadows. The orders give us the powers to disperse groups we consider are likely to cause a public nuisance and confiscate alcohol. If they refuse our requests then we can arrest them. We can therefore, be more robust, which I think the public wants.”

His first step has been to set up a public survey asking Tavistock residents to outline their most important concerns - this survey is accessed through a QR code on Tavistock Police Facebook page and pictured here.

Sgt Tom Ottley is asking Tavistock people to help them fight crime by completing the QR code survey about their key concerns.
Sgt Tom Ottley is asking Tavistock people to help them by completing the QR code survey about their key concerns. (Devon and Cornwall Police)