Last Friday (15th December), the PCC Mark Shelford visited local community groups, faith groups, and elected leaders in Wells, Somerset to understand policing and crime concerns and how communities are working together to support people in the area as part of his weekly Friday Engagement visits.
The PCC started the day by meeting with Mayor of Wells, Councillor Tanys Pullin, Deputy Mayor Councillor Jasmine Browne, Councillor Louis Agabani and Councillor Stewart Curley.
They discussed local crime issues in particular, shoplifting, which was increasing as an issue but is currently going down in numbers due to joint retail and community campaigns, anti-social behaviour, domestic violence, burglary, and safety issues being addressed.
Despite the raised concerns, it was also pleasing to hear from the councillors that the concerted efforts by retailers, the Neighbourhood Police Team and the community has led to this reduction in incidents of shoplifting in the area. Visible police teams in hot spot areas in the town centre, information sharing social media platforms and improved physical security systems were some of the interventions used to tackle the issue.
To understand the wider community issues, support network, sources of information for residents and community, the PCC visited the Community Connect Centre, which is in the heart of the town of Wells. The PCC met David Smith, Lead Pastor at Elim Connect Centre.
Pastor Smith advised that the Centre has grown into the primary front door for anyone who needs access to care in Mendip. Pastor Smith said: “Community Connect is supporting change in people challenged by complex and multiple needs- such as homeless, addiction, mental health, or life-controlling issues.
“We work with key organisations to access services developing professional partnerships so we can continue to offer successful support to even more vulnerable people.”
Among the projects run by the centre is a Dairy house which is a direct access hostel for anyone who is experiencing rough sleeping or homelessness.
Following this, the PCC also visited Wells Community Network (WCN), a coordinated network of volunteers and organisations that work together to support local community. The volunteers engage in an enormous variety of task, from marshalling and supporting organisations, to day-to-day chores, social networking activities, shopping, collecting prescriptions and dog walking.
WCN also runs a Welcome Hub working with statutory organisations, local organisations, and individuals to respond to the needs of the Ukrainian community settling in Wells and the surrounding area. Supporting refugees is at the heart of the Welcome Hub.
Commenting on the visits, the PCC Mark Shelford said: “I was pleased to hear how local organisations, the Council and local community make effort to work together to tackle local issues and support people, especially the vulnerable.”