Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, on Thursday 26 May 2016, chaired a meeting for residents at St. Matthew's Church in Southcote ward to question members of Thames Valley Police on local issues of concern.
Joining Alok on the panel were Simon Briggs, Neighbourhood Inspector for South, North and West Reading, PC EmJ Morris and Joe Northcote, Neighbourhood Initiatives Officer at Reading Borough Council. The meeting provided attendees to ask questions on a number of key issues, including:
Mini motorbike nuisance and reckless drivers
A number of residents raised concerns about nuisance drivers, particularly mini motorbikes being driven on pavements and verges during the warm summer months. PC EmJ Morris assured residents that the Police were taking this issue seriously and would be undertaking operations over the coming weeks to specifically target this kind of antisocial behaviour, including the deployment of 4x4 vehicles and Police horses. Under Section 59 of the Police Reform Act, the Police have the power to confiscate any motor vehicle which is driven in an inconsiderate manner which may cause alarm, distress or annoyance to members of the public.
Inspector Simon Briggs appealed to residents to report incidents of anti-social behaviour to the Police via the local Neighbourhood Action Group, recording the date and times, the location and any description of the vehicle or rider which could help identify perpetrators and hotspots which can then be monitored.
Joe Northcote provided attendees with forms put together with the local Neighbourhood Action Group which could be used to report nuisance driving and Inspector Briggs encouraged residents to report all incidents as this would make it more likely the Police would be able to take confiscatory action.
The issue of drug dealing was also raised, which some residents claimed was being carried out by "known offenders". Inspector Briggs reiterated the importance of local residents reporting suspicious behaviour as this could then be used as intelligence which the Police could present to a magistrate to obtain a warrant for a raid. Without recent reports from local residents, Inspector Briggs explained it was very difficult for the Police to be able to justify to a magistrate the need for a warrant to be issued.
Parking on pavements
It was suggested that a combined response was required to discourage parking on pavements in the local area. Inspector Briggs agreed that the Police would be happy to work with the Council to issue a letter to local households about this problem and this would be progressed by the Neighbourhood Action Group with the assistance of police volunteers.
Inspector Briggs discussed the work the Police are doing to target vehicles speeding, including the use of Speed Indication Devices and speed guns, as well as covert cameras which can monitor average traffic speeds and improve Police awareness of areas where further enforcement is required.
The use of CCTV to identify those committing anti-social behaviour was also discussed. Southcote Councillor John Ennis, who was attending the meeting, noted that the majority of CCTV cameras were monitored by Reading Borough Council. Alok urged Councillor Ennis to find out whether a telephone number for the individuals monitoring the CCTV could be provided to Neighbourhood Action Groups to enable them to report ongoing crimes directly to those who could collect evidence.
Alok Sharma said: "This was a very constructive and informative meeting which enabled residents to raise concerns directly with the officers responsible for policing their local area. A lot of the discussion focused around anti-social behaviour related to mini-motorbikes and I have therefore asked Thames Valley Police to write to me setting out exactly how residents should respond if they feel threatened by irresponsible drivers, which I will distribute to local residents."
Alok continued: "My thanks to everyone who attended the meeting as well as to Inspector Briggs, PC Morris and Joe Northcote for their important contributions and I look forward to holding further meetings like this across the Reading West constituency."
Inspector Simon Briggs said: "This meeting was a great opportunity to both get the views of residents and to work in partnership with them in order to improve some of the issues that they raise as being of most concern to them."