Com­mis­sioner con­sid­ers all sides in search for so­lu­tion to en­camp­ments

Surrey Advertiser - - Front Page -

SUR­REY’S Po­lice and Crime Com­mis­sioner (PCC) is plan­ning to meet coun­cil chiefs to find ‘a longer term so­lu­tion’ to the is­sue of unau­tho­rised trav­eller en­cam­p­ents.

PCC David Munro said he recog­nised the ‘con­sid­er­able com­mu­nity ten­sions’ that re­cent trav­eller in­cur­sions have caused. But he stressed these should not ‘be used as an ex­cuse for in­tol­er­ance, dis­crim­i­na­tion or hate crime to­wards this com­mu­nity’.

Mr Munro has asked Sur­rey Po­lice to com­pile a re­port on polic­ing is­sues fol­low­ing re­cent unau­tho­rised en­camp­ments in the county.

He said he al­ways wanted to ‘li­aise directly’ with the Gypsy, Roma and Trav­ellers (GRT) com­mu­nity in Sur­rey.

“I be­lieve the time has come to look at a more co­or­di­nated ap­proach to seek a better so­lu­tion for all com­mu­ni­ties,” said Mr Munro.

“We have seen a num­ber of unau­tho­rised in­cur­sions in Sur­rey over re­cent months which have caused con­sid­er­able com­mu­nity ten­sions in some ar­eas and put a strain on po­lice re­sources.

“This can be a com­plex is­sue which of­ten causes frus­tra­tion for all con­cerned. I have heard from a num­ber of peo­ple over the last few weeks about their re­cent ex­pe­ri­ences and know unau­tho­rised en­camp­ments can cause sig­nif­i­cant dis­rup­tion to res­i­dents and land own­ers.”

This sum­mer Sur­rey has seen groups of trav­ellers move into Staines, Ep­som, Cob­ham, Wok­ing, Send and Farn­ham, among other places across the county.

Mr Munro said he has writ­ten to PCCs to seek their views on the use of short stay transit sites and a re­view of the leg­is­la­tion gov­ern­ing the bal­ance be­tween trav­ellers’ rights and those of set­tled com­mu­ni­ties.

He added: “We must find a more pro­duc­tive path to lessen the im­pact on our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties whilst at the same time seek­ing to meet the needs of the trav­el­ling com­mu­nity. There is a del­i­cate bal­ance to strike and I know we are not alone in Sur­rey in seek­ing a longert­erm so­lu­tion.

“Con­ver­sa­tions about the best way for­ward need to take place at a na­tional level and I have writ­ten to all my fel­low PCCs across the coun­try to seek their views and sug­ges­tions on how we can take pos­i­tive steps for­ward.

“Polic­ing alone can­not pro­vide the com­plete an­swer and we must work more closely with lo­cal gov­ern­ment and na­tional bod­ies to come up with ways of meeting this chal­lenge.

“I am par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested to hear about the use of transit sites that pro­vide ap­pro­pri­ate tem­po­rary stop­ping places for trav­ellers with proper fa­cil­i­ties, which have worked well in some ar­eas.”

When the Sur­rey Ad­ver­tiser spoke to a group of trav­ellers at Abbey­fields in Chert­sey, they raised con­cerns about the on­line re­ac­tion to their pres­ence.

“We were very up­set when we saw those com­ments,” said John (whose real name has been with­held). “It is not fair to judge some­body when you don’t know them.

“The coun­cil has sim­ply not built any­where for us to go – the sites they do of­fer have a 40-year wait­ing list.

“We have been go­ing around the area pick­ing up lit­ter just be­cause we know we will be blamed for it.

“The peo­ple in this area are go­ing to be our neigh­bours, we want to get along with them,” he said.

Mr Munro con­cluded by ad­dress­ing the is­sue of dis­crim­i­na­tion to­wards the GRT com­mu­nity. He said: “As the na­tional APCC lead for equal­i­ties, di­ver­sity and hu­man rights is­sues, I am com­mit­ted to help­ing chal­lenge mis­con­cep­tions around the GRT com­mu­nity.

“One of my pri­mary aims in look­ing at this is­sue re­mains the safe­guard­ing of those who are vul­ner­a­ble.

“I want to make it ab­so­lutely clear that it re­mains com­pletely un­ac­cept­able for any height­ened ten­sions cre­ated by unau­tho­rised en­camp­ments to be used as an ex­cuse for in­tol­er­ance, dis­crim­i­na­tion or hate crime to­wards this com­mu­nity.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.