A much-needed government-backed city centre policing team is to be re-introduced into Southampton following months of campaigning by GO! Southampton.
The officers will be reallocated from Southampton Central’s Neighbourhood Police Team to form the Southampton City Centre Policing Team, dedicated to tackling violent crime in the city centre. This is just one of many initiatives backed by GO! Southampton that has already seen several positive results including 70% of all stolen goods from the area being recovered.
The policing team will include a sergeant plus support from dedicated PCs and PCSOs. Every quarter, GO! Southampton will also join with Hampshire Constabulary and Southampton City Council for Operation Deluge. The operation will see a large number of uniformed police officers on foot, in cars and on bikes put into a crime hot-spot area on certain dates to deter those causing problems and deal with prolific offenders.
The initiative comes after budget cuts in 2009 saw police forces dramatically reduced in the city, resulting in both residents and businesses being subjected to increasing levels of crime, with many feeling the city has become totally lawless.
In a letter to the Hampshire Police Crime Commissioner last year, the city’s Business Improvement District (BID) GO! Southampton requested an urgent review of policing in the city centre. This was after 70% of its BID members felt fear of crime was a significant issue and 63% witnessing at least one staff member assaulted in the last 12 months. GO! Southampton has also written and met with all candidates for the elected role of Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire in May to raise attacks on shop staff in the city.
BID members also reported an increase in aggressive beggars and individuals openly taking drugs in plain sight of shoppers. In 2019, businesses reported that shoplifting increased when one of the BID’s largest retailers moved into the top 25 most affected by shoplifting nationally, with stock losses of around £900,000.
In response to these figures, GO! Southampton launched several initiatives to help keep the city centre safe. These initiatives included a new security team, which now operates seven days a week and has increased its hours to offer further support to businesses, now the city centre is open after the national lockdown.
GO! Southampton has also backed the Safer Streets Project that saw additional CCTV and streetlighting installed in the city centre. Rebecca Handley, Operations Director at GO! Southampton, is a member of the Executive Board for the scheme and plays a role in aiding decisions relating to safer streets and crime prevention.
Operation Luscombe, a multi-agency partnership including GO! Southampton, has been identifying street attached individuals who are causing the most harm through crime and anti-social behaviour in the City Centre. Although intended as a supportive scheme to assist potential high harm offenders to accept help to change their ways, the initiative also takes enforcement action which has in one case resulted in a ‘high harm offender’ being banned from the city for two years under a Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO).
Last year, GO! Southampton launched the Southampton Business Crime Partnership (SBCP) which aims to improve the collation of crime intelligence across both daytime and night-time economies through a dedicated crime-reporting portal and a new radio scheme in the city that links businesses to city-wide CCTV, the BID’s security team and the new City Centre Police Team.
Since the SBCP launched, 70% of stolen goods from city centre businesses has been recovered thanks to the BID’s security team and SBCP members. The scheme has recently completed accreditation against the National BCRP Standards – the only official quality check against businesses led crime initiatives in the UK.
Giles Semper, Executive Director at GO! Southampton said: “The news that the city-centre police team will return to Southampton is hugely welcome and a relief to the businesses that operate here. We’ve been fighting for a long time to improve the overall safety in Southampton as well as reduce crime – and we hope the police presence will go even further in achieving that. We would wish to extend our thanks to Chief Inspector Dhanda and our friends at Hampshire Constabulary for listening to our members and responding.”
Sergeant Sal Ferris said “Our City Centre Team are focussing on reducing and preventing violent crime and public disorder in the city in order to make it a safer environment.
“We can only achieve this by working collaboratively with our partners, business owners, security teams and the public.
“We are committed to making Southampton City a safer place for everyone to enjoy.”