Listen Live

Tavistock tightens rules for bad behaviour

Tuesday, 14 May 2024 16:43

By Alison Stephenson, local democracy reporter

The Tavistock Guildhall and toilets next door| (Image: Google Street View)

Toilet block vandalised again

Tough new plans to curb anti-social behaviour could be introduced in Tavistock.

It follows another attack on public toilets in the town centre which were set fire to and vandalised last week.

West Devon Borough Council said in just a month it has replaced 25 toilet seats and five soap dispensers in its Guildhall toilets and the repair and clean up operations were costing taxpayers thousands of pounds.

It said the loos had suffered two attacks of arson and vandalism in the last fortnight, with toilet seats and toilet roll holders smashed and the baby changing unit damaged. The facilities will remain closed until Wednesday (15 May).

The attack at the end of last week has sparked calls for the police and local authorities to look again at installing CCTV in the town centre.

Newly re-elected Devon and Cornwall police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez said there would be a new wave of funding for CCTV soon that local communities could apply for.

Responding to a Facebook post about the vandalism and CCTV Ms Hernandez said she would be “willing to help fund part of it through my office”.

The police are also asking the town and borough council to consider extending a public space protection order (PSPO) currently in place for the Meadows park to cover the whole town when it comes up for renewal soon.

A PSPO allows certain activities to be banned that councils consider to have a detrimental effect on the lives of others. This could include drinking, using abusive and intimidating language and dropping litter.

Officers want dispersal powers as part the PSPO which means they can move someone on who is causing disruption and they won’t be allowed to return for 24 hours. Fines are issued if people who fail to comply.

Devon County councillor and West Devon Borough Councillor for Tavistock Debo Sellis (Con) said CCTV had been talked about in the past for the town and not pursued but vandalism was “not as rife as it is now”.

“I think we need to get everyone around the table, local elected members and the police. I do not like the thought of CCTV and drones but also I do not like the thought of our public toilets being shut.

“I think it’s time we asked everyone their views on the subject.”

Tavistock police sergeant Thomas Ottley said he had been pushing for CCTV for the last 12 months in Tavistock but was coming up against some resistance, mainly because of the cost, which can run into tens of thousands of pounds.

He said the police had conducted a survey in the town last summer asking for feedback and all but one of the 90 residents who took part were not against CCTV.

“We know people want more police officers but that is something we cannot achieve in the short term. We have more officers than we did but they do get called away from patrolling to deal with incidents. They have to go where they are needed the most.”

He said there was real benefit to cameras which could result in a 30 to 40 per cent reduction in crime if they were live monitored.

He said in Okehampton where CCTV was installed a few years ago by the town council, with a £15,000 contribution from the police and crime commissioner’s office, a sex offender and prolific thief had been caught from CCTV evidence.

Sgt Ottley added that the PSPO  in the Meadows in Tavistock had been successful in that location but displaced crime to other areas of the town, so the proposal was to include the town as whole.

If the town council and West Devon Borough Council agree, people will have their chance to give their views in a public consultation.

Police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez said anti-social behaviour was a priority for her.

“The CCTV I helped fund in my first and second terms of office has helped prevent crime, catch perpetrators and keep people safe,” she said.

“We need to have a relentless focus on antisocial behaviour and shoplifting and I will be launching a new round of funding for CCTV schemes in this term. I look forward to working with communities across Devon and Cornwall on this project.”

But West Devon Borough and town councillor Ursula Mann (Ind, Tavistock North) said she was not in favour of CCTV and did not want to live in a surveillance society with cameras up everywhere.

“I don’t think that the criminal justice system can solve the problems of people who find fun in burning a toilet multiple times. They must be disengaged from society to do this and we should be looking at what we can do with additional youth services to try and turn things around.”

More from Local News

Listen Live
On Air Now Ashley Jeary Playing Losing My Religion R.E.M.