Leighton Buzzard policing: Here's what's happening to curb town centre violence and criminality in villages
Meeting learns of arrival of more PCs and extended late-night patrols as MP reveals 'unacceptable' incidents
Higher profile policing is being directed at Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable town centres to curb aggressive and anti-social behaviour, a meeting heard.
Community teams' hours have extended by two hours to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, while local authority safer neighbourhood teams are supporting Bedfordshire Police.
The Leighton Buzzard area, which has four police officers and three PCSOs, will have three more PCs from September, an online Leighton-Linslade community policing priority meeting heard on Thursday evening (June 24).
Conservative South-West Bedfordshire MP Andrew Selous said: "Before the pandemic the Leighton Buzzard Pubwatch chairman showed me some pretty horrific and shocking video footage.
"Not very highly paid bar staff were having to deal with this before Bedfordshire Police officers could arrive and break up fights.
"It wasn't just the pubs. It was the taxi drivers as well. They told me it was criminal damage to their vehicles and racist behaviour towards them.
"We'll need to keep that under review and react fast if the situation demands because it really was unacceptable before the pandemic.
"We all hope the restrictions will go on July 19," he added. "I was wondering what the thinking was about this happening again.
"Many of us wanted to see a police presence based in the town later into the night time economy, at least on a Friday and a Saturday.
"In the villages, I don't think the term anti-social behaviour really covers it. I would call it aggressive and intimidatory behaviour.
"I'm talking about having stones thrown at your vehicle, being driven at and some of the delivery services in the town effectively having blacklisted parts of certain villages because they just won't go there.
"There's various other intimidatory stuff. I've had the odd comment of 'I'm really worried what will happen to my husband if he goes and tackles this'.
"You wanted two policing priorities. Those would be the thoughts from me."
Insp Craig Gurr, of Bedfordshire Police, replied: "Leighton Buzzard is a particularly vibrant night-time economy.
"It's on a par if not greater than Dunstable's, certainly greater than Luton.
"The night time economy is policed by Operation Night Owl, which consists of a van crew covering the south of the county.
"They do some high visibility patrols and can respond to incidents as they occur, as will our normal response units.
"The change in the night time economy now is our community teams' core hours of 7am-10pm have been extended to midnight on a Friday and Saturday," he explained.
"It might not sound a lot. But the idea is they'll do an early doors meet and greet, along with Central Bedfordshire Council safer neighbourhood officers, to hopefully set the tone for the rest of the evening.
"They'll be splitting the time between Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable.
"That's been running since Christmas, albeit the pubs for a large part have been closed or faced restricted opening.
"When is comes to 'freedom day' as it's been described, we're virtually treating that first week almost like a Christmas Eve scenario because it'll be busy.
"We'll have extra units and extra vans out for that weekend. We do have a regular night time economy review meeting, which Pubwatch attends.
"On the criminality around the villages, there's a certain community which gets ... I hesitate to use the word blame," he added.
"And there's a certain amount of criminality attached to these communities as well. We're aware of that.
"There are several operations at the moment, which I can't go into detail on, looking at that criminality issue, so there's something in the pipeline."
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