Saturday, April 08, 2006

Bikes in Darlington Pedestrian Heart

Many people will have seen, or heard about, the Darlington & Stockton Times article this week, refering to the banning of bikes in the Pedestrian Heart. For those who have not, here it is in full:

Action on gangs of 'marauding chavs on bikes'

by staff of The Darlington & Stockton Times

A DARLINGTON police inspector has pledged to take action against intimidating youths on bikes.

Insp Chris Reeves said that the problem of persistent offenders on cycles across the town was increasing.

He told Darlington Borough Council's public protection and community partnerships scrutiny committee on Tuesday that he hoped to obtain anti-social behaviour orders to prevent some youths from owning or riding bikes.

"If I can achieve one thing in Darlington before I retire, it would be to stop gangs of 'chavs' marauding around on their bikes," he said. "It is one of the reasons I don't agree with the pedestrianisation of the town centre."

Insp Reeves said that although some bicycle users would use the new pedestrianised town centre responsibly, the majority of youths would not.

He said: "My concern is for the amount of time we will have to put in to try and stop that sort of behaviour.

"It is going to be difficult to prove what careless cycling is because they are allowed to cycle there."

He said that recently there had been an increase in vehicle crime in the College, Northgate, North Road and Bank Top wards.

It was understood that youths on bikes were following vans around Darlington and then
stealing satellite navigation systems from the vehicles when they were left unattended.

"It is happening 24 hours a day and it is difficult to stop because they are cycling around," said Insp Reeves.

"We are planning to target them for arrests and if we can prove there is a pattern of offending we are looking at getting Asbos on them for riding a or possessing a bike.

"However, it requires a lot of information, but it is the only solution."

He said that he was looking to work with the council's anti-social behaviour team and to put a police officer in the authority's CCTV centre to monitor gangs.

However, he needed to obtain permission for specialist surveillance.

Committee chairman, Coun Doris Jones, said they supported the proposal and would set up a support group to look at it.

Insp Reeves said that the partnership between his three main beat teams and the council was working successfully.

But he said he was looking to reduce the number of meetings to work more closely with departments on a daily basis.

"We have developed strong links with council departments and we have gone past the point where we need so many meetings. The meetings stop us getting on with what we do.

"I want beat sergeants to be in charge of officers and police community support officers but to also work closely with the uniformed wardens and environmental services on a daily basis."


This was followed by a piece in The Northern Echo where the police stated that these were the opinions of the officer concerned, and that he was moving to other duties. Again, here it is in full:

Inspector switches jobs hours after comments

by Olivia Richwald

A POPULAR police inspector has been removed from his post hours after he made controversial comments at a council meeting.

Inspector Chris Reeves was praised by councillors for his honesty after he spoke about anti-social behaviour problems in Darlington town centre.

He told a meeting of the public protection scrutiny committee that he wanted to crack down on gangs of youths on bikes and get increased security camera surveillance and anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) imposed on some of the youths known to be committing crimes.

Insp Reeves also criticised the controversial Pedestrian Heart scheme, saying he disagreed with allowing cyclists into a pedestrianised town centre, a move he felt would increase anti-social behaviour.

He also said policing had become like "juggling soot", with resources pulled in different directions as police were told to prioritise their work.

Afterwards, Councillor Gerald Lee told him: "That was the most enlightening and uplifting talk I have heard since I have been a councillor. We really appreciate your honesty."

Chairwoman Councillor Doris Jones also praised Insp Reeves for an honest report.

However, shortly after the meeting, The Northern Echo was contacted by Durham Police to point out that Insp Reeves' views on the Pedestrian Heart were his opinion and not that of the force.

Insp Reeves, a community inspector in Darlington for two years, has been moved to a new post in the policing area.

Last night, Durham Police denied the move was related to his comments at Tuesday's meeting.

Chief Inspector Adrian Green said: "He has a new role and will be responsible for ports policing and also responsible for football issues.

"With the forthcoming World Cup, we have agreed that he will take on that role, dedicated for a period of time."

Last night, Coun Lee said he was shocked and saddened that Insp Reeves was no longer community inspector for Darlington.

He said: "He held his hand up and said 'we do have problems'. If he has been removed because of his comments, it frightens the life out of me.

"He was doing a good job and it is a very bad mistake to move him."

Coun Jones also said she thought it was dreadful that Insp Reeves had been moved from his post.

She said: "I would like to think his comments would be shared by 99.99 per cent of the people in Darlington. He was very, very brave to speak his mind."

Last night Insp Reeves declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for Darlington Borough Council said: "It would be inappropriate for us to comment on a Durham Constabulary staffing matter, which is solely the concern of the force."


While the comments on banning bikes seem to be the opinion of just one police officer, the councillors quoted appear to support such a move.

Clearly, the Cycle Campaign would oppose a ban. Others are in agreement - this issue gained us our first blog comment, before we'd even written about it!

We are currently working on a Darlington Cycle Campaign response. Please leave your opinions in the comments for this post.

(Text from the Northern Echo and D&ST is quoted for the purposes of informed debate. I would have linked to the articles on their websites, but permanent links and archives of stories have not made it as far as the North East.)

April Council Cycle Forum

The much-moved Council Cycle Forum has again relocated! Details in the updated blog post.