Last week’s mention of street drinking in Boston sparked yet another wave of comment.
Opinions popped up on several Facebook sites where issues affecting Boston are discussed, as well as in a number of e-mails.
Even Boston Borough Council joined in the debate by listing a week’s work for its 3GS Enforcement ‘team.’
According to Worst Street, 3GS provides enforcement officers who patrol the streets issuing fixed penalty notices for ‘a variety’ of different environmental crimes including littering, fly-tipping, graffiti, dog fouling, ‘etc.’
Amazingly, this costs the council taxpayers nothing, as 3GS keeps all the money from the fines – usually £70 quid a throw.
Yet it is claimed “their officers are not financially incentivised” – step back in amazement – and their work also helps the council “carry out awareness raising and educational initiatives.”
When 3GS was first given the contract, the Worst Street spinster hit an hysterical high.
“The service level agreement with 3GS has been widely (do they mean wildly? – Ed) successful during its pilot.
“The council issued only seven fixed penalty notices for environmental crime offences in 2016/17.
“This rose to 514 between April and December 2017 as a result of our use of 3GS.”
Sidestepping the fact that this either showed up the council’s own efforts as less than half-hearted – or contradicted the idea that issuing shedloads of tickets was not an incentive because the company kept the money, the figures were nonetheless substantial.
Unhappily for Worst Street they also confirmed what many had been saying – that the council was merely paying lip service to the problem … let’s not forget that this was back in the heyday of the council/local ‘newspaper’ name and shame ‘partnerships’ which neither named nor shamed anyone at all.
However, what the figures showed was a vigorous attack on some environmental crimes – enough to get the 3GS contract extended until April next year.
Some simple division shows that the tickets averaged around 60 a month, or 16 a week.
Sixteen a week is two or three a day by a ‘team’ the size of which is not specified.
Fast forward a few months from the meeting which extended the contract and look at Worst Street’s recent weekly figures
In the week commencing 8th October, the ‘team’ issued six tickets for fly-tipping, four for cigarette littering and one for urinating – that’s eleven in all.
The following week beginning 15th October, four tickets were handed out for cigarette littering, three for fly-tipping and one Number One – a total of eight.
What we’re looking at here is a definite decline in tickets issued – and whilst fly-tipping sounds serious it doesn’t necessarily involve huge amounts of waste.
But when it does, you can bet your boots that Worst Street will look the other way if it can.
Witness this recent dialogue a taxpayer and Worst Street after an attempt to report some fly-tipping.
From Worst Street: “We are grateful when people report fly-tips but as previously stated we do not collect from peoples’ properties unless they book bulky collections. Which they may have done.”
To Worst Street: “More obstruction of footpath, and looks an eyesore. Further info was (that it was) dumped by rough sleeper in derelict building close by.
“Why don't you get your CCTV right next to incident to actually trace what actually happened?
Are you not going to tackle this then?”
From Worst Street: “This looks like it is on a driveway?
“It is only classed as a fly-tip if it is on the highway. Please advise?
To Worst Street: “Looks like (it has) been dumped, would think someone moved to edge to not obstruct path?
“Are you not willing to tackle then?
“Thought you'd be grateful of public reporting such blight on our streets…”
At this point, the dialogue ended.
Given that the 3GS contract is up for renewal next April – and that the elections for the full council will be held on 2nd May ... we think that if nothing else, any decision to renew should be pushed back for a few weeks so that the decision can be taken by whomever is elected to the new council.
A more serious episode concerned a reader who encountered a threatening attitude from two men he encountered in a park with a children’s play area.
He saw evidence of drug taking, cannabis smoking and drinking within a few feet of a CCTV camera at a time when two council staff were present and asked whether – whilst they may not have been allowed to issue a challenge, whether they should at least have made a phone call?
He added: “The two youths became threatening when challenged, so I rang 999, only to be told to report it on 101.”
What’s emerging here is a clear case of too many cooks spoiling the broth.
The streets are now watched – physically or otherwise – by the police, the 3GS team, Worst Street’s own anti-social behaviour squad and CCTV.
The police appear to be under the impression that the problem of street drinking has largely been solved – although the reality seems more likely that it has simply moved elsewhere … away from the town centre.
Recently observers say they have been seeing less of 3GS on the street – which seems borne out by the fall in the issue of tickets, as we are sure that the problems are not solving themselves..
Worst Street’s merry band – who knows?
CCTV, meanwhile, is now operated by Boston Borough Council not only covering the borough but also South Holland, East Lindsey and parts of North Kesteven.
Whilst this makes money for Worst Street – always a top priority – and has involved some extra staff input from outside districts, at the end of the day the more thinly you spread the jam on you bread the less palatable the sandwich becomes.
Between April last year and the end of March this year, CCTV operators recorded 18,405 daily log entries, and completed 1,855 incident records – which included 985 Boston incidents … plus 609 for East Lindsey, 198 in South Holland and 63 in North Kesteven.
If that wasn’t enough to keep them busy, they also dealt with 556 out of hours telephone calls for Boston Borough Council and 1,014 for East Lindsey.
The ‘daily log entries’ – running at more than fifty a day – sound like paperwork for its own sake, as ‘proper’ incident records represent only about 10% of the top line.
Over the year, there were 346 arrests where CCTV provided a direct contribution in Boston – fewer than one a day.
Interestingly, the proximity of incidents in relation to town’s police station continue to suggest that a couple of patrolling Bobbies/Robertas would do more to dissuade people from misbehaving and therefore reduce the number of incidents to be dealt with and remove many other attendant pressures.
What becomes increasingly obvious is that between the various groups focussing on the town’s issues there are a number of omissions within each that collectively create a black hole through which much of what exercises the taxpaying residents is allowed to slip.
What’s needed is a wheels-up restoration of the system, where all the parties involved get together to analyse the causes and sources of the trouble and look at where their systems are failing.
This should also include the much-derided 101 phone system – which so many people complain costs them 15p to make a call which takes an eternity to get a response … unless they give up in despair first.
End of rant. For now
Last week we highlighted some interesting items from the Worst Street spending list – and there will be more to come.
In the meantime here’s a riddle for you … we all know that Ryanair is a low cost budget airline whose tickets are sold for give away prices.
How many of the Great and the Good can you fly to Boston’s twin town Laval for £1,215.18?
Another highlight from last week demonstrated the convenience of a parked-up Worst Street trailer as a repository for used booze bottles.
Whilst this mess was selflessly cleared up by none other than the town centre portfolio holder, it seems that where there’s another trailer, there’s another unofficial bottle bank!
Poor old Worst Street.
Finally, our Forward Planning Smile of the Week award goes to whomever spent hours with his Letraset kit painstakingly to put together the sign below.
Thankth to thith thign, oneth the oneth cometh, no-one will have an excuseth if they parkth where they shouldnth.
That's why we have restictions!
We clock up yet another undeserved birthday this week, so we're taking a few days off .
Our next blog will appear on Monday 12th November.
Our next blog will appear on Monday 12th November.
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