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New police powers for city centre a step closer

Saturday, April 20th, 2019 8:36am

By Tom Davis - Local Democracy Reporter

A new police power to help officers tackle gangs in Coventry after a rise in violent crime has moved a step closer.

Coventry City Council’s scrutiny committee backed plans for a Public Space Protection Order in the city centre on Wednesday, with final approval now needed at cabinet in June.

Only last week, police Chief Superintendent Mike O’Hara told a council meeting there has been a particular uplift in violence between two known city gangs.

Police are currently unable to move people on unless an offence has taken place.

But the new PSPO will allow police to ask groups of two or more who are behaving in an antisocial manner to move on, or face a £100 fine reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days.

“This is very much in response to the rise in public space violence and the issues we have seen in and around the city,” the council’s community safety officer Liam Nagle said.

The PSPO would cover the St Michael’s ward and surrounding areas only.

A consultation on the plan, which drew 114 responses, saw 90 per cent back the proposal, with 80 per cent supporting the area it covered – although some wanted it extended city-wide.

Mr Nagle explained the council has had to ‘draw the line somewhere’.

Cllr Naeem Akhtar, ward councillor for St Michael’s, said the power is welcomed as residents in the area have been living in “hell” due to the anti-social behaviour.

“We have seen people in Hillfields crying in public meetings because they can’t sleep, they are harassed in their houses and constantly live in fear and intimidation,” he said.

Fellow ward councillor David Welsh added: “It is a constant battle in St Michael’s – it is like pushing a rock up a hill sometimes with police as there is a lack of resource.

“Working with police we don’t hear them talking about people who are standing around, we hear them talking about people who are using children and young adults to carry drugs, carry knives and other things for them, so they don’t get caught.

“It is very difficult for police to manage, so the extra powers will certainly make a difference.”

The PSPO would run for three years but could be extended.

Councillors requested a report is brought back after six months to judge the PSPOs impact.

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