“You can’t let these people win” Sharon, Basildon
Northlands Park in Basildon has been the site of a number of crimes in recent months. Most recently some ducks from the lake were shot and beheaded and the dead ducks left on a wall outside a block of flats for kids to see on their way to school. Following a mugging, sexual assault and rape (though this was later retracted) Imelda Clancy, the Independence councillor for Pitsea North West, branded the park unsafe for people to go alone.
She openly complained about the police feeling they are not doing enough. Interviewed on BBC Radio Essex with James Whale on Tuesday 22nd September, she reiterated this opinion. When James Whale spoke to one of the victims, though, who had been assaulted when running through the park, listeners heard a very different perspective: “It is very worrying but equally you can’t let these people win. I think common sense has to prevail – I still go to the park, I still jog. If I’m going there early morning or late at night I buddy up with someone.”
She is taking precautions but not giving in to the situation. In her experience the police have been very supportive to her. She doesn’t expect them to be in the park all the time and in her personal opinion, given the police cuts, she thinks they are doing what they can.
When we hear from an actual victim who feels supported by the police and wants common sense to prevail we would suggest that the Councillor’s comments could lead to a ‘broken window effect’ whereby people avoid the park and then anti-social behaviour is allowed to increase there until it becomes a no-go area and affects the local neighbourhood. ASB Help suggests the residents around Northlands Park choose to fight as a community and be determined that anti-social behaviour will not rule. If residents fight, agencies will have to take notice and act.
There are some simple ways to make the park safer such as better lighting and CCTV in key places. We would would also advise individuals to read our guidance here if they feel frightened. We also have a case study of where some Bed and Breakfast owners in Scarborough in North Yorkshire were able to turn their local area around as residents. We hope this will encourage residents in difficult areas of what you can achieve if you come together as a group. Stay safe but do not give into fear. Avoiding the park is not the answer. We believe the answer lies with residents making their voice heard and applying appropriate pressure on police and Council where action should be taken.
Do not forget that Essex police recently admitted they only attend 3% of anti-social incidents and expect the Council to be picking up the rest. The council has the same powers to improve public spaces, like a park, as the police (see Public Spaces Protection Order).