22nd Feb, 2019

Controversial new police powers in Coventry set for public consultation amid violent crime rise

Felix Nobes 8th Feb, 2019

POLICE could be granted increased powers in Coventry city centre after more than 600 incidents of serious and violent crime last year.

West Midlands Police are hoping to gain support from councillors to consult the public on a potential Public Space Protection Order (PSPO).

It would cover areas in and surrounding the city centre primarily in St Michaels ward, which includes Hillfields.

Senior police officers say the order would give police power to move on any groups who they believe are an anti-social behaviour or a crime risk.

It also gives police powers to arrest them if they refuse to leave the area covered by the PSPO.

At a Coventry council cabinet meeting on Tuesday (February 12) police officers will highlight a 20 per cent increase in violent crime across Coventry in the last year.

Over the last financial year the ward of St Michaels had over 100 incidents involving knives.

A boy, 15, was last week stabbed in the city centre in front of a horrified crowd, while the fatal knifing of Fidel Glasgow drew national attention.

The proposed PSPO boundaries aim to avoid displacement of criminal activity in parts of the city centre and other areas including the Canal Basin and Gosford Green.

Inspector Mark Teago said St Michaels – which also includes Gosford Green and the lower section of Foleshill – has some of the most deprived areas in the region.

Problems also include gang related activity, drug dealing and drug misuse, he added, with many offenders under 18.

He added: “This leads in turn to increased concerns around children being exploited for criminal purposes and sexual exploitation.”

Cabinet member for policing and equalities Coun Abdul Khan said: “It’s important we get a wider understanding of what local people think.

“What we do know is that there have been innocent victims of violent crime which has affected families, friends and communities. We need to understand where patterns of criminality are happening.

“Any order must be targeted effectively and not stigmatise innocent people. We want to generate debate on this but we cannot stand by when evidence tells us that this measure could aid more effective policing at a time when the funding of policing is under the spotlight.”

Superintendent Phil Healy added: “PSPOs are a really effective tool for police officers: it allows them to disperse groups of two or more people if they fear they are up to no good. If they refuse to move on they can be arrested and/or given a fixed penalty fine.

“Visitors who are in the city centre to shop, work or entertainment – law-abiding citizens – have nothing to fear from this proposal.”

Councillors are expected to agree a 30 day public consultation.

The three-year PSPO could be in place by July.

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