2. Policing and anti-socialbehaviour

(November 20, 2009)

DURING our formative years in the 1960s respect for the police and other members of the community was taken for granted but that is no longer the case today.

Warminster is not alone in facing a number of particular problems but in many respects we are far better off than many communities in the country in that the level of serious crime here is below average.

But problems do exist and must be tackled.

Things may well get significantly worse in the next few months as some people may turn to crime during the coming economic downturn.


There has been a worrying increase in the number of unprovoked attacks late at night on lone individuals in Warminster town often resulting in bodily harm less often resulting in charges.

We have been very lucky so far in that none of these has resulted in a fatality.

Older youths racing around residential streets in old bangers, sometimes unsilenced or unlicensed. Eventually one of police car these idiots will cause a fatality.

Significant numbers of young people gathered in small groups often acting noisily and sometimes foul-mouthed. Warminster park is an area with a particular problem. These young people can and do cause harassment, alarm and distress to others, especially the elderly. We must try not demonise young people who simply want get together in groups but there is a minority who commit crimes.

Outbursts of violence between individuals who are known to each other. Often during the hours of darkness and fuelled by drink or domestic issues. Such behaviour should not be tolerated in any street in the town.

Even when criminals are prosecuted successfully the news fails to get through to the community because all of our local courts have closed. It was a sad mistake when the Magistrates’ Court, which used to sit in the town hall, was closed down by the authorities in 1991.

It feels as if justice has withdrawn from Warminster.


These issues are predominantly the territory of the local constabulary but all members of the community should assist and support them in their duties. Officers work long shifts often extended by many hours by paperwork associated with arrests and custody duties.

We can do nothing about these except urge politicians to make reforms which cut down on paperwork.

The police are keen on encouraging the voluntary sector and we support this (and will deal with this issue in detail in a later chapter). See

We can also urge our local constabulary to take a fresh look at the numbers of uniformed officers based in Warminster and re-assess the model of the neighbourhood policing teams (NPT) they have adopted. (This has now been done and the balance of NPT/response staff shifted on 1 April 2009. The maximum abstraction rate to be allowed will now be 20 per cent)

Our NPTs are often just 1 officer, 1 Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) aided by specials. While the PCSOs are not abstracted from the teams for other duties officers have advised us that they are often being made to undertake two jobs at once in that they are called on to undertake response work as well as their neighbourhood policing role.

The truth is that there are too few police based in the town so few in fact that the handful of Warminster police staff created so little mess that they laid off the cleaner at the police station. (This was following Project Optimus two years ago - Inspector Dave Minty has assured us that they now have sufficient staff to warrant a cleaner).

We need at least another five officers based in the town and we hope that message gets through to the divisional chief Julian Kirby and chief constable Brian Moore.

We have more officers in Wiltshire than ever before but we see fewer of them on the streets than ever before.

Perhaps fresh attempts to get officers or PCSOs to live in police houses in the centre of communities should be made by offering financial inducements as this would help with visibility.



Many more officers are tied up in specialist and very necessary roles but many patrol officers seemed to disappear at the time when then Home Secretary Charles Clarke threatened to abolish our police force because it couldn’t provide enough specialist crime fighters.

Tracking terrorists and sex offenders and cracking drugs rings and fraud are all vital work but so is providing a reassuring presence and deterrent on our streets late at night.

That is something the PCSOs cannot do as they do not patrol at night.

Late night drinking in licensed premises is something which may also be adding to problems but it seems likely that most of alcohol related crime is in reality fuelled by cheap alcohol available from retail outlets which is sometimes passed on to those under age.

There is one area where the local authority could have a major impact.

In neighbouring counties local authorities have been employing increasing numbers of community wardens who are accredited by the police but do not wear the imposing police style uniform.

While they have no police powers they are in contact with police via radio if necessary and can focus on areas regarded as too trivial by the police such as the 2005 Clean Neighbourhood and Environment Act, parking regulations and identifying those who wantonly dump rubbish and litter.

However the primary function of the warden is not punitive but to become part of the local community and get to know who is who, try to diffuse disputes and befriend the elderly, vulnerable and lonely,

They are dressed in a much less formal and threatening uniform than police and PCSOs and are encouraged to really get to know their patch on foot or on bike.

Much of their work will be to interact with the young not necessarily acting as enforcers against young people but sometimes acting as their advocates where they have a genuine grievance.

In Warminster they could prove to be really useful in places such as the town park and on some of our larger estates where there are large congregations of listless young people.

In the Test Valley borough area of Hampshire they have been operating for more than five years and have proved highly successful in reaching out to communities blighted by anti-social behaviour, identifying problems and problem people.

At present many people feel alone, vulnerable and do not have a friendlyface to turn too - the proposed wardens would help build bridges and reduce the fear of crime and lessen the sense of vulnerability. fuji pic 2008

We have no operational control over our police force but the recruitment of community wardens would give the community a greater sense of security and chance of cracking this distressing problem.

Warminster needs to see the creation of a team of community wardens to oversee areas with particular problems of Anti-Social Behaviour working closely with the police.


One of the key elements in combating crime and anti-social behaviour is increasing the sense of pride in a community. We can do this in Warminster if those in charge have the right attitude .

But individuals can help to by tackling what police call ‘the broken window syndrome’. Where there are two broken windows vandals find it easy to break others - that same applies to litter and even the disgusting habit of spitting chewing gum on our streets.

So if you see a crisp packet littering the street, pick it up - you are helping to fight crime.

Our vision is of a town content with the long established tradition of policing by consent.



Promoted and published by Steve Dancey of 21 Newport, Warminster, and Paul Macdonald, of 144 Boreham Field, Warminster.


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