FEATURE: Does a drop in reports of crime mark turning point for Hexthorpe?

Reports of anti-social behaviour have dramatically fallen in Hexthorpe, following the introduction of a Public Spaces Protection Order. Residents have questioned whether this paints a true picture of life in the village.
Reports of anti-social behaviour have dramatically fallen in Hexthorpe, following the introduction of a Public Spaces Protection Order. Residents have questioned whether this paints a true picture of life in the village.

Previously blighted by reports of racial tensions, violent offences spilling out on to the streets and anti-social behaviour, many living in Hexthorpe despaired for the state of the village.

But following the introduction of a public spaces protection order last summer, police say they hope that a reduction in reports of anti-social behaviour could mark a turning point for Hexthorpe and its residents’.

Despite this, a number of people living in the village claim that the figures do not paint a true picture of life in Hexthorpe - with some residents’ saying they have ‘given up’ on reporting crime to the police and others claiming they do not feel safe walking the streets at night.

Police figures released last week revealed how reports of antisocial behaviour in Hexthorpe fell by 34 per cent between April and December compared with the same period in 2014.

Insp Lynne Lancaster, of the Doncaster Central team, has called the drop ‘very encouraging.’

She said: “The PSPO came into effect in August 2015 and we had a reduction in incidents of 40 per cent in that first month compared with the same month in 2014 and are continuing to see reductions in incidents.

“There were only 14 incidents reported in December – the lowest recorded antisocial behaviour for Hexthorpe in the 21 months since we started analysing data.

“We’re hoping that this will mark a turning point for Hexthorpe almost, but we know there’s still more work to do. We won’t become complacent.

“Part of the reason I think we are seeing things improve is because of the partnership working between the council and the police, which means that there are two teams out on the streets looking after things.”

The introduction of the order was prompted by calls from residents for more to be done to ease tensions in the area after a number of racially-aggravated crimes.

A number of violent offences took place on the streets of the village, including:

- A brawl between a group of Poles and Slovaks that led to two men being stabbed

- A man being attacked in his car by a group armed with baseball bats

- Six being arrested following another stabbing incident

As part of order, which is the first of its kind in Doncaster, people have been prevented from congregating in groups of three or more, and from using Hexthorpe Flatts park, seen as a catalyst for anti-social behaviour by residents.

The order was introduced by South Yorkshire police and Doncaster council.

Community activist, Stuart Boardman says the true ‘litmus test’ of whether things have improved in Hexthorpe will only be seen during the summer - the time of year when a spike in the number of instances of anti-social behaviour has traditionally been seen.

He told the Free Press: “I don’t think the figures are really showing how things are.

“I think there’s a lot of apathy around at the moment.

“People will tell you that they’ve tried to report incidents that have been going off, but they haven’t been able to get through even after trying for over half an hour in some cases.

“And I think a lot of people would tell you the same.

“They just feel like they’re wasting their time.

“There was one incident on New Years’ Day when there was a disturbance because there was one house where they were playing music really loud through the night. Their neighbours tried to report to break it up, and they didn’t hear anything back until January 6!

“I think we do have a good safer neighbourhood team here, but we don’t have the PCSOs here anymore - and that’s been a big loss.

“You don’t see anyone patrolling and that does have a big impact.

“There’s still a huge problem with fly-tipping as well. The council used to come in for a deep clean once a fortnight, and now it’s once a week.”

Free Press readers’ have taken to social media to share their concerns about crime in Hexthorpe.

Maja Staudt commented: “I’m working in hexthorpe (sic) for the past 6 years, it’s never been as bad as it is now. I’m afraid of walking home alone when I finish work in the evenings.”

Neal Ingber added: “Still work to do police can make figures say what they want by shifting 1 (sic) crime to another type, my sister has lived there for over 30yrs every where (sic) has

there (sic) bad areas but this is going from bad to worse.”

Commenting on the reduction in the number of incidents of anti-social behaviour in the village, Doncaster Council’s cabinet member for communities, Coun Chris McGuinness, said: “We are all pleased to see the Public Space Protection Order in Hexthorpe having a positive effect, and it is encouraging to see how much anti-social behaviour has reduced in the area.

“We will continue to work in close partnership with the community and South Yorkshire Police, and keep trying to improve community safety for local people.”

A minorities team was formed in Hexthorpe last year, consisting of one part-time employee and a number of volunteers that were tasked with improving relations among those living in the area.

A joint worship event has subsequently been planned by The King’s Church on Urban Road to take place in the Dell at Hexthorpe Flatts park at 3pm on Sunday, May 15, to celebrate Pentecost.

It will be the first time a joint service of this kind has been held in Hexthorpe.

Reverend Ian Rutherford says he views the joint service as a positive step forward.

He said: “We know there have been tensions, but following the work of MP Rosie Winterton, South Yorkshire Police, Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings things are starting to move forward.

“There is now a dialogue between the different groups and congregations which I think is key.

“We have four congregations who use the church - the English congregation, the Iranian congregation, the Zimbabwean congregation and the Slovakian congregation and thought it would be good to bring them together.

“Pentecost is the story of when the disciples came out and although everyone was speaking different languages they were all able to understand each other - which I think is very fitting.

“And we want to send the message that the service isn’t just for those four congregations - it’s for Hexthorpe and we want as many people as possible to attend.

“We haven’t got unity yet - but I think it’s what we’re moving towards.”