In todays Times of Tunbridge Wells, Greg demands that more action is taken against the wave of anti-social behaviour that has spread across Tunbridge Wells town centre, Southborough, Sherwood and Paddock Wood.
In the article, Greg says:
"The peace of too many people in our community has been ruined by anti-social behaviour carried out by a specific, increasingly lawless group of young people over recent months. Before the school holidays much of their activity was centred around the St John's area, but during the summer aggressive, destructive and intimidating behaviour has spread to area including the town centre, Grosvenor and Hillbert Park, the Nevill cricket ground, and Southborough, Sherwood and Paddock Wood.
"The actions are criminal: vandalising property, harassing members of the public (including people working in shops), threatening people, and spraying graffiti. In my view, not enough has been done to end this. We now need a more robust response from the police and the Council.
"Our local police are very aware of the problem and I'm grateful for what they have done. I convened a meeting with local headteachers and the Police Chief Inspector in July, which secured a greater police presence around schools at home time. Combined with staff patrols, it made a big difference during the last few weeks of term. Police have made significant arrests recently, and some perpetrators are heading for court. Police are also restoring school-based officers who can intervene quickly and early with Children who show signs of getting into trouble. I spent some time on patrol with some of our Tunbridge Wells police officers this months, and was deeply impressed by their determination to keep us safe, coupled by intense local knowledge of our streets and the people who cause trouble.
"Yet I get the sense that the our police are as frustrated as I am by the impunity that some of these yobs feel. They think that they can make people's lives a misery without consequence. I understand that the authorities are reluctant to give under 18s a criminal record, but crimes that go unpunished breed more - and more serious- offences. And when a wider group of impressionable young people see the ringleaders get away with it, they too get drawn into criminal behaviour.
"My strong view is that every crime should result in a concrete outcome – a ‘disposal’ as it is known officially. Criminal prosecution must be part of that, alongside other options, such as restorative justice (in which the perpetrator is required to make reparations or restitution for their offence) - with the clear threat of prosecution if the offender refuses to comply.
"The Borough Council has its part to play too. The Anti Social Behaviour Act (ASBA) 2014 gives councils a statutory responsibility to tackle anti-social behaviour and provides sanctions. For example, Public Spaces Protection Orders can be issued by the council and Fixed Penalty Notices can be served on anyone, including those under 18, who is engaged in anti-social behaviour. Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has some dedicated and effective officers who help reduce anti-social behaviour, but I think the police’s patrols would be helped if their presence was supplemented by the Council. The Council is currently quick to fine any citizen who innocent and inadvertently drives in front of the Town Hall – it should show the same zeal when it comes to using its powers to fine people who deliberately set out to make law-abiding residents’ lives miserable.
"The time has come for a stronger grip to be taken on the problem of anti-social behaviour in our area. ASBA provides for a ‘Community Trigger’ – where a citizen can trigger a review of the handling of anti-social behaviour in an area if there have been three or more incidents of concern over a 6 month period. We have had many more than that. So I have written today to the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to trigger this escalation. The resulting independently chaired Anti-Social Behaviour Review will assess the adequacy of the response made to date and require further action that should be taken to restore tranquillity to our area.
"I hope this will provide the catalyst for a more effective resolution of the wave of anti-social behaviour that has hit us these last few months, and make our community safer and more enjoyable for all residents."