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Agenda item

THEMED REVIEW: PUBLIC SAFETY AND THE NIGHT TIME ECONOMY

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Head of Community Safety.

 

Alastair Macorkindale introduced the report.  He said it looked at national and regional patterns of night-time economic activity and associated behaviour, then examined the local picture.

 

Because Waltham Forest had come relatively late to the night-time economy, it has been possible to see what has happened elsewhere, take what has worked, and leave what has not worked so well.  On balance the experience has been for the good: it has created jobs, is an important contribution to the cultural life of residents and encourages people to move to the borough and stay.

 

Crime - Nevertheless, there is a correlation between the night-time economy and crime.  Men drinking too much in certain environments may assault one another.  Although most research has gone into men’s behaviour and pubs, there is also a rise in sexual violence against women. This can be anywhere on a spectrum between unwanted attention and harassment, to rape at the other extreme.  There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence and an increasing concern expressed by local women.

 

Male violence is typically associated with establishments that allow drunkenness: serving people who are already drunk, bad design and layout, and poor management.  In many instances these risks can be ‘designed out’ and addressed through licensing conditions.  For example, serving food tends to act as an inhibitor of heavy drinking and violent behaviour.  More careful thought to the public realm can avoid problems when people congregate at cab ranks leading to jostling and fracas.  Many of the traditional trouble-spots have been managed down.  For example, the entire borough south of the A406 is now subject to a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO).

 

Mr Macorkindale said that the night-time economy accounts for five per cent of Waltham Forest business, although it might be surprising to learn that it is growing more slowly that the economy as a whole.  It is also much more likely to be focused on town centres.  Chingford has proportionally the greatest number of violent incidents at night

 

Risks to women – Mr Macorkindale referred to tow specific campaigns within the umbrella of the Safety Pledge.  ‘A Good Night Out’ deepens the pledge in terms of the safety of venues and staff training.  The ‘Ask for Angela” campaign provides a codeword whereby someone can go to the bar and discreetly ask for help if they are being made to feel uncomfortable, and staff will then keep an eye on them. 

 

There is increasing scope for smart solutions such as an app for reporting sexual harassment not unlike the one available for reporting flytipping.  These point to future safeguarding initiatives to deliver greater general community safety across the board.  This includes work with GALOP, the leading LGBT organisation specialised in preventing violence.  Members referred to the ‘Owl’ app in this context, and the Committee wondered whether its use could be explored and piloted using Safer Neighbourhoods Board/MOPAC monies.

 

The Leader of the Council has asked for a sexual violence needs assessment, which would be a first in London, and the establishment of a funding base is being explored.  An in-house exercise is feasible but would be largely quantitative, whereas an independent qualitiative element would be far more useful and meaningful. 

 

The presentation led to a discussion in which the following points were made.

 

Councillor Mahmood asked how many crimes were related to alcohol.  Mr Macorkindale said this had a subjective element, but out of between 6,500 and 7,000 crimes, approximately 2,500 were domestic, leaving 5,000.  He felt the question merited further investigation.  He added that alcohol per se does not make someone violent.  What determines people’s behaviour when they drink is the effect of the drink and what they expect it to do; their mood, whether they are angry or withdrawn for example; and the setting and the expectation of the setting.  People may drink in a rough pub or a fine-dining restaurant, but the behaviour and expectations are quite different.

 

It was impossible to say how many sexual offences were pre-meditated.

 

Chingford – It could not realistically be the case that violent incidents were due to the night-time economy, as the town centre has only one pub, and the other venues are all restaurants.  It was likely that incidents might be caused by a shortage of taxis at the station and people returning drunk from Central London.  Mr Macorkindale agreed that ways of changing how the rank is organised and regulated could be explores.

 

Hoe Street – Councillor James expressed interest in the impact of the early evening economy and also of non-licensed premises.  Earlier in the meeting he referred to homophobic attacks in the vicinity.  He referred to the stretch of Hoe street near its junction with Greenleaf Road, where there are cafés which stay open late, and which are popular with young men from North African communities.  It was not surprising that some people had now altered their journey home from work.

 

Mr Macorkindale said that officers were aware of this and working with colleagues and local councillors.  Residents and pedestrians are understandably concerned at the number of people congregating there.  However, it is also a vital social space and means of support for young men who might otherwise be isolated on London without a lifeline.  It is about residents, the businesses and customers understanding the impact, and exploring imaginative solutions such as better use and sharing of space, including at the rear of the premises.  Planning may also have a role.  However, this must not be seen as giving permission to sexual harassment or drug dealing which has no place in Waltham Forest or the culture people want to be part of. 

 

PSPO - In response to Members’ questions, Mr Macorkindale said that the Order prohibits certain types of behaviour, starting with a community Protection Warning, which is an Oder to desist from a Neighbourhood Officer.  If necessary the matter can be escalated to and Anti-Social Behaviour Order.  Members expressed interest in the triggers and timescales involved, and asked to be provided with details.

 

It was noted that a neighbourhood officer could not insist on having an individual’s details, and this would most likely be a matter for the police.  However, in many instances people infringing the orders are already well-known.

 

Garden behind Lea Bridge Library – The Chair expressed concern about behaviour in this location, and noted that it was in the zone covered by the PSPO.  Mr Macorkindale said he would look liaise on the with Neighbourhood colleagues, and if necessary consider the installation of CCTV.

 

Philip Dundon was glad that Waltham Forest had not rushed into the night-time economy, and was still not sure who it was for: whether its draw should be an uptown one or a more downtown edginess.

 

Decision

 

The Committee:

 

(a)  supported the ‘Good Night Out’ and ‘Ask for Angela’ campaigns and asked that ways of extending these ideas could be explored.

 

(b)  expressed interest in the ‘Owl’ and other apps, and how they can improve community safety, and requested that their use could be explored and piloted using Safer Neighbourhoods Board/MOPAC monies.

 

(c)  asked that anti-social behaviour in and around the garden behind  Lea Bridge Garden be investigated further and addressed; and

 

looked forward to further information on how PSPO orders work in practice, and the escalation process and timescales.

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