'We need more boots on the ground'

Police in Saltash
Image caption,

Police carried out a covert drugs operation in Saltash

  • Published

Just over half of UK adults surveyed earlier this year said they were not confident in the ability of the police to tackle anti-social behaviour in their local area.

Drug-taking, vandalism, general nuisance behaviour and street-drinking can be damaging for communities, including the Cornish towns of Saltash and Liskeard, where some residents have voiced concerns.

It is a fairly quiet Friday night in Saltash and 25 police officers take the patrons of one of the town's pubs by surprise, led by drugs dog Skye.

By the end of the night, the red labrador has helped the Devon and Cornwall Police officers carry out seven stop-searches in pubs in Saltash and Liskeard, with three people's items taken away for testing.

It is the latest covert drug operation targeting licensed premises in Saltash, a town that overlooks the River Tamar and borders Devon.

Sgt Daniel Lewis is in charge and said it was also about "promoting public confidence" with the number of police officers out showing they support the community "so they feel it's safe to go out".

"We’re the first town you come into over the Tamar Bridge from Plymouth, which is a big city, so we do get a lot of overspill here, unfortunately.

"But it is a very safe place to live and these operations allow us to police and make it safe."

Image caption,

Brett Woodward said he does not tolerate anti-social behaviour in his pub, and has permanently barred three people

Whether it is drugs, neighbours playing music too loud, vandalism, graffiti or street drinking - anti-social behaviour is a top concern with voters when it comes to law and order.

The latest crime survey by the office of Devon and Cornwall's Police and Crime Commissioner found more than half of respondents put anti-social behaviour as the issue that most troubles them, external.

Estimates from the crime survey for England Wales last year, external showed 35% of people had experienced or witnessed some type of anti-social behaviour - and, when it came to perception, 24% of people think it was a "fairly" or "very" big problem in their area.

The latest Office for National Statistics crime statistics from December 2023 showed Devon and Cornwall had the second lowest crime rate in England and Wales.

According to figures from Devon and Cornwall Police in response to a BBC Freedom of Information request, reported anti-social behaviour was down year-on-year since 2021.

One of the pubs searched is The Railway, within sight of the bridges crossing the river, connecting Cornwall and Devon.

No drugs are found here, and landlord Brett Woodward said this sort of policing was very welcome.

"I think it’s a good idea; the more often they do it the better. It doesn’t exactly stop people but it’s certainly a deterrent," he said.

'Visible presence'

A few miles down the A38 is Liskeard, another town in the South East Cornwall constituency.

Along with Saltash, it is one of 10 places across the county that's part of Safer Cornwall, an initiative aiming to improve community safety and reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.

Charles and Sally Bamford are out shopping on the pedestrianised Fore Street.

The couple have lived here for 30 years and would like to see a more visible police presence to help people feel safer, particularly walking around in the evening.

"We get a little bit of anti-social behaviour around the streets, and there's a lot of people out in the park doing drugs.

"If there was a more visible presence, that might stop it or be a deterrent," Mr Bamford says.

Mrs Bamford is concerned about shoplifting in the local supermarkets.

"They can’t do anything about them. There's people just filling their baskets up and walking out with whatever they choose," she said.

Image caption,

Mark Field wants more police on the streets

Also shopping in the town centre is Mark Field, who has lived in Liskeard for 35 years and would also like to see police on patrol more regularly.

"We don’t have major crime here, but we have a lot of petty crime that winds everybody up.

"We’ve got a drugs problem in the town, like everywhere in the country. It's not a major problem, but we do get a bit of anti-social behaviour, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.

"A few more people being warned or being cautioned by the police would help."

Image caption,

Melanie Stamford-Beer runs a cafe in Liskeard

'Need to tackle drugs'

Melanie Stamford-Beer, originally from South Africa, has lived here for seven years and now runs a coffee shop on Fore Street.

"The main thing to do is tackle drugs. Because of poverty, people really are struggling in Liskeard and there needs to be things to be done for youngsters to keep them off the streets.

"Dealing drugs - that’s what we need to tackle in Liskeard," she says.

In the same building, Mark Pepper runs a retro toy shop and said this bit of town saw hardly any incidents, but there had been a wider problem with graffiti recently.

"We don’t really see an awful lot of boots on the ground as a whole as a country. I think we are lacking that - we need more," he said.

Full list of candidates for the South East Cornwall constituency:

  • Martin Corney – Green

  • Graham Cowdry – Heritage party

  • Anna Gelderd – Labour

  • Colin Martin – Liberal Democrats

  • Sheryll Murray – Conservatives

  • Paul Wadley – Reform UK

You can use the BBC News lookup tool to find out which constituency you are in, who is standing as a candidate in your area and which polling station you can vote at.

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