Residents on troubled estates in parts of St Helens “dread” 9pm believing it signals a spike in anti-social behaviour, a council report concludes.
An investigation found a widespread belief that the time when Police Community Support Officers clock off for the night coincides with a sharp rise in trouble.
“Anti-social behaviour increases when PCSOs go off duty at 9pm,” the report says. “Residents are starting to dread 9pm as this is when they know trouble could start.
“The young people know what time the PCSOs finish and it is perceived that ASB increases after this time.”
The authors of the report found this belief, which is particularly prevalent in Thatto Heath and Earlestown, is backed up by statistical evidence, with the number of ASB incidents one hour after PCSOs finish increasing during 2014.
However, the authors caution this may also be due to a “general trend” rather than being solely down to shift patterns.
They also found:
n A 42 per cent increase in incidents of anti-social behaviour between 2013 and 2014
n Racist incidents on the increase in Sutton
n Almost two complaints a day about rowdy and inconsiderate behaviour
“PCSOs provide a reassuring, highly visible presence on the streets of St Helens and work with local residents and the business community,” writes Coun Charlie Preston, who led the council task force examining ASB.
“They also have regular contact with the local schools and have well developed relationships with the community centres, the tenants and residents associations and local ward councillors.
“We discussed at length the concerns of residents around the increase in ASB and once PCSOs finished their shift at 9pm.
“Although the number of ASB incidents reported at 10pm is at a higher level during 2014 it would appear that this is following the trend of increased calls in general rather than being associated solely with the times PCSOs complete their evening patrols.”
There are currently 51 PCSO employed to work in the borough. However, the report did conclude a number of new measures design to combat ASB could have a positive impact.
Changes to the law have created a ‘community triggers’, an approach which by local authorities must investigate if five households make a complaints about a person or a group of people.
“The over-arching aim of the new law is to provide more effective powers to tackle anti-social behaviour, protect victims and communities and treat the underlying behaviour of perpetrators.”