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PCC visits community groups in Bridgwater

Last Friday (9th February) the PCC was in Bridgwater where he met with Council officials and had a roundtable discussion with businesses to listen to their policing, and crime concerns in the area. And to hear how they were supporting people in the community.

The PCC started the day with a meeting at Bridgwater Town Hall, where he met with the Mayor of Bridgwater Councillor Mick Lerry, Deputy Mayor Jacqui Solomon, Somerset Council Community Safety & Resilience Manager Rob Semple, Somerset Council Violence Reduction Partnership Manager, Clare Stuart, Neighbourhood Police Team Members, Inspector Michael Payne, and Sergeant Kat Forest. Among the key issues discussed was anti-social behaviour, and shoplifting.

The Mayor Councillor Lerry says the council has a good working relationship with the police and get regular police updates on what is going on in the area for different meetings. Another example given was that Council Wardens works closely with Police Community Support Officers, and Pub Watch Network. However, to address shoplifting, anti-social behaviour, and youth violence, it requires more partners to work together. Clare Stuart from VRP says “youth violence is a top priority. Working with partners, we are putting problem solving plans to resolve hot spots.”

Clare gave an example of Coffee#1 on (29 Fore Street, Bridgwater TA6 3NH). They have just agreed to host a new youth evening in partnership with Young Somerset that is part of a wider program of activity to help prevent town centre concerns.

Following this, the PCC spoke at the Bridgwater Conservatives Ladies Luncheon. The PCC ended the day with a roundtable discussion with Bridgwater Chamber of Commerce. Before the roundtable discussion, Bridgwater Chamber of Commerce Manager, Diogo Rodrigues, Sergeant Kat Forest, and business owners, accompanied the PCC to walk along the high street visiting shops and businesses to hear their concerns. From the three shops visited and talking to business owners, all raised similar ASB and increasing shoplifting concerns. Similar concerns were raised at the roundtable discussion convened by Diogo from Bridgwater Chamber of Commerce. Five business representatives, two security officers at Angel Place Shopping Centre and Sergeant Kat Forest joined the roundtable.

Angel Place Shopping Centre Manager, Lauren Douglass in her written contributions to the roundtable discussions about ASB had this to say: “The frequency and volume of the gangs of youths in and around the centre is continuing to rise. We understand that our peak times for the centre to be impacted by this is after school, 3pm onwards, however, we see groups in and around the centre daily too, during weekends.

“They cause as much disruption as possible, offensive, and racist verbal language and petty theft is witnessed daily. They have in recent weeks started to cause large scale disruption by setting off fire alarms within the centre, which affects all customers, tenants, and staff, and put them at risk of physical harm.”

Commenting after the visit, PCC Mark Shelford said: “I had the pleasure of meeting with the council officials and Bridgwater Chamber of Commerce representatives. Issues of great concern raised include the rise in anti-social behaviour, shoplifting and the need for police’s immediate response or presence.

“I would like to reassure businesses, particularly those operating in the high street and other hot spots and residents that I have listened to these concerning issues and am working closely with the police and partners to address the issues.”