More than 80 people have come together at a public meeting in Keynsham to discuss constructive ways of dealing as a community with the anti-social and criminal behaviour that has been plaguing the town in recent weeks.
The meeting at the Victoria Methodist Church last night, which was hosted by the town council and streamed live on Facebook, was attended by representatives of the police, ASB team, local schools, churches, B&NES Council, youth groups and other organisations, including the new Keynsham Community Spirit group, Street Pastors who operate in Bath and the street marshalling group Safe & Sound.
Sgt Jon Bagnowiec, from the Keynsham neighbourhood police team, told the meeting that problems were occurring between 4pm and 9pm in the town centre and Queens Road area and the footpaths linking the two.
He said latest figures showed that in the 28 days up to last Friday (16th February) there had been 392 calls to the police from the public in Keynsham and surrounding villages, and 26 of them were anti-social behaviour-related. He said that in that time period there had also been 24 reports of criminal damage and 11 of those were directly attributable to ASB.
He said the town centre was a “teenagers’ playground” with its food outlets, alleys, covered areas, free wi-fi and open spaces. He stressed that the majority are nice and polite young people.
There are four PCSOs in Keynsham and one full-time and one part-time police officer; the Specials and members of the Bath beat team are also brought in where possible, and a new beat manager is joining the team soon.
As well as youths being abusive and making a nuisance of themselves in the town centre and in Queens Road and on the Tintagel estate , property has been damaged, bins have been set on fire and people have been intimidated. One mother who lives in the Queens Road area spoke about how a laser had been shone into her son’s bedroom, badly hurting his eyes. She said drugs deals take place regularly near her home and her family has suffered racial abuse.
Several people at the meeting spoke about how scared they feel with some questioning whether Keynsham is the right place to bring up their families.
Nick Birt, from the youth service in Keynsham, said that 60% of the young people his team had spoken to are not from Keynsham but outside the town from areas including Hanham, Brislington, Cadbury Heath and Hartcliffe.
Trisha Williams, founder of the Keynsham charity Butterflies-Haven, set up the Facebook group Keynsham Community Spirit a month ago and there are already around 350 members.
She said ASB was “severe”, that property had been damaged and stolen, and elderly and vulnerable had expressed fears, and parents are worried about their children going to play areas.
The group has a volunteer steering team and committee who aim to forge effective connections with the police, youth workers, town council, B&NES, housing association Curo, schools, existing Neighbourhood Watch Groups and other relevant groups and agencies.
Cllr Charles Gerrish told the meeting that more than £80,000 was being earmarked by B&NES Council for CCTV improvements in Keynsham, and that the authority was looking for funding for CCTV in the Queens Road area.
A trader highlighted that there are CCTV cameras in the Civic Centre area, where there have been problems near Sainsbury’s and Subway and the library, but they are not wired up although very much needed.
Town & B&NES councillor Alan Hale encouraged everyone concerned about ASB to contact local MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was invited to the meeting but has sent his apologies.
After the meeting the town council thanked all the speakers and residents who attended the meeting. “It was great to see so much enthusiasm within our community for making Keynsham a better place.”
Anyone interested in volunteering at one of Keynsham’s many community groups and initiatives is asked to register their interest by contacting the town council.
If you weren’t able to attend the meeting, or missed the live stream, you can still watch the recording.