Tackling crime in Yarmouth

For the final day of the crime focus on the safer neighbourhood areas crime reporter LUCY BOLTON looks at the problems families face in Yarmouth and the actions police are taking to resolve the issues.

Lucy Bolton

Speeding boy racers, youngsters jumping off piers, drug misuse and bin fires are among some of the problems for the Yarmouth patch of 10 safer neighbourhood teams.

Predominantly a seasonal seaside stretch, issues around drunken holiday makers and transitional trading adds to the concerns in one of the most deprived parts of Norfolk.

Crime is up, anti-social behaviour is up and the priorities brought up through the three-monthly meetings reflect the concerns of families living in the area.

Insp Teresa Eagleton, who heads up the Caister and Coastal Villages Team along with the Rural Flegg Villages Team, said the summer brings more problems than usual.

She said: "We have about 27,000 people in those areas but come the summer that is three-fold. Events and weekends at places like Hemsby add to the numbers. We have a lot of seasonality with our crime issues which can start as early as May and go on until September."

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Rowdy behaviour has increased from last year in many of the Yarmouth patches. In the Caister area it rose from 155 reports between April and June last year, compared to 197 this year; in South Yarmouth, from 642 to 797; in North Yarmouth from 175 to 253; in Gorleston from 137 to 243 and in Cobholm and Southtown reports rose from 174 to 180.

Burglaries rose from 22 reports to 30 in Gorleston; 12 to 15 in Rural Flegg Villages; 22 to 27 in Stalham and 13 to 20 in Acle. Although violent crime has dropped by more than 40pc in the area, Insp Eagleton said it was one of the main problems during holiday season.

She added: "Families come for a holiday and couples aren't used to spending that much time with each other.

"Tempers flare, people have too much to drink and there are domestics. One of our key areas of work is to work with the camps, which have been great in offering alternative accommodation if there has been a domestic.

"We have also ensured people know we are here, putting leaflets and letters in welcome packs - this has really worked."

While the tourist towns and villages heave with holidaymakers, some parts of the patch are very rural and Insp Eagleton said it was harder to track very rural problems, such as the spate of heating oil thefts, although the team had put efforts into working with oil companies to carry out preventative work.

As with all the other safer neighbourhood teams, anti-social behaviour is a common problem, and Yarmouth and its surrounds are no different.

Priorities across the 10 teams are boy racers, known to police as Jetty Boys, threatening behaviour, graffiti and vandalism.

But for central Yarmouth, including the South Yarmouth team, the crime focus during the summer is on thefts from vehicles.

PC Tony Blackman said: "Crime is seasonal but the most change is property being stolen from vehicles, where people have parked them and left them unattended. I've only been here since February and it's not as busy as I thought it would be."

One of the key ways in which the team has tackled the seafront issues is to install a police pod directly on the seafront, opposite Harry Ramsden's fish shop.

Here people can report incidents, find information or meet the team. The pod even distributes wristbands to children with their parents' phone number in case they become separated.

PC Blackman added: "Public order used to be vans chasing people up and down the seafront but things are different now - it's much more about preventative work.

"I've been in the police for many years and it has changed, individual working used to mean just that but now what we are is partnership working. There's a lot more willingness from other organisations.

"We have radios between organisations linking us up, so if something, say, happens in a nightclub, we can be there straight away. We have CCTV radios to focus on specific areas. It's not about arresting people all the time and it's all been very effective"

Organisations around the town have been working with organisations such as the town's borough council, youth groups and talking to community leaders.

Naji Darwish, crime reduction manager from Great Yarmouth Borough Council said: "Work between the borough council and Safer Neighbourhood teams is key to ensuring that we all work to make our communities safer.

"Both the borough council and the county council staff work together in our communities to tackle priorities and issues raised by local people. This is in conjunction with the work of individual agencies to build a safer and stronger community, and has seen crime in Yarmouth fall by 28pc since 2003/4."

Ü To view the articles on all the safer neighbourhood teams visit the Policing in the Community section at www.eveningnews24.co.uk