WREXHAM councillors have asked police chiefs for more communication about crime in their wards.
The authority’s safeguarding, communities and wellbeing scrutiny committee received a presentation from Wrexham’s Chief Inspector Steve Roberts at this month’s meeting.
He faced questions from councillors about a loss of regular updates since the departure of previous Inspector Luke Hughes, a reduction in PCSOs, and ‘cuckooing’ – where vulnerable residents are preyed on so that drug gangs can use their properties.
Whitegate Cllr Brian Cameron (Lab) said: “On a daily basis we used to have reports on what was going on in the town centre.
“Why have those reports stopped?
“Being a member of Caia Park Community Council I can’t remember the last time we had a police presence.”
Inspector Stephen Roberts said being more candid could sometimes bring problems.
He said: “It took hours and hours of Insp Hughes’ time every day, a lot of which was in his own time.
“It did have a negative effect on occasion. A lot of the anti-social behaviour around the bus station we believe could be attributed to the fact youths got a kick out of forming a part of that report, so it’s a real difficult balance to have around what you include in that report.
“I have asked that some form of a report goes out on a weekly basis.”
Insp Roberts added that he would prefer neighbourhood teams put out reports on individual wards.
Chairing the meeting, Cefn Cllr Derek Wright (Lab) asked about the loss of four PCSOs previously funded by Wrexham Council.
As the council scrambled to make savings earlier this year when faced with being more than £23 over-budget, the authority quickly pulled its funding for four city centre PCSOs.
Insp Roberts answered: “I can’t tell you whether we’re going to fund them.
“My gut instinct would be probably not. If we did it would be as a result of losing them somewhere else, or we may take half a hit and replace as much as we can.”
Insp Roberts talked about the difficulty of retaining PCSOs, with many having the ambition to become full-fledged police officers.
He added: “It’s no longer achievable to have a staff member guaranteed to appear at every council or community meeting.
“What I can say is that I ask my district inspectors, if possible that at least once every two or three council meetings a representative of the district team will be there.
“I’ve also asked that a really good communications system is in place so that outside of those meetings it’s easy for council members or community member to approach North Wales Police and get some answers.”
New Broughton Cllr Claire Lovett (Ind) also queried police attendance at council meetings and the accuracy of reports.
“I feel very much we’re missing out”, she said.
“Our PCSO still does not have a mobile phone to our knowledge. We keep asking for a contact number and are being advised they haven’t actually been given one.
“We’ve had three visits in the last 36 months. We feel very much let-down as a community as to the service we’re receiving.”
Insp Roberts said he was surprised to hear this as the district inspector has a good system of communication, adding that he would speak to Cllr Lovett about the issues outside of the meeting.
Leader of the council, Esclusham Cllr Mark Pritchard (Ind), temporarily filling in the vacant lead member role, said he took a different view on police attending council meetings.
He said: “I would rather have the police outside stopping anti-social behaviour, tackling crime, not coming to community councils for two hours sitting around presenting reports.
“We do it differently in Esclusham – we have a very good working relationship with North Wales Police and we meet monthly. We have a community councillor who presents the stats we’re provided with.
“There’s a lot of crime out there in all our communities in Wrexham and it never stops.”
Cllr Pritchard added that he was surprised about the problems Wrexham has with ‘cuckooing’ and asked that police officers work closely with the council to identify properties earlier and “shut them down”.
He said: “It should be zero-tolerance because they’re a blight on all our communities.”
Insp Roberts agreed, saying there had been at least nine addresses in Wrexham being used for ‘cuckooing’, adding “we’ll do everything we can with regards to it”.
The committee thanked the officer for the report, progress achieved and look forward to next year.
Councillors also requested that police work closely with the authority to prevent social housing being used for ‘cuckooing’.