Boston councillors have agreed to lock the town’s central park gate overnight and pay for a security firm to do so for a year-long trial to address ongoing anti-social behaviour.
Boston Town Area Committee also on Thursday night voted in favour of employing a new CCTV operator to monitor incidents in their area – something the borough council is usually responsible for.
The times for closing and opening the park have yet to be agreed, but councillors requested “reasonable hours”, suggesting somewhere between 10pm and 6am – previously it was just “dusk till dawn”.
The measures were approved by cabinet in December, however, leaders requested the committee fund the move.
The security firm will cost £16,500 for the year, plus additional fees if locking the gates takes longer than two hours. The cost of the new CCTV operator was not agreed at the meeting.
Councillor Neil John Hastie said he was “constantly” getting calls from residents about the park gates.
“It’s in the early hours of the morning saying there’s music playing, there’s shouting, their screaming and there’s bottles being thrown around.
“I’ve got four or five residents who are looking to sell their houses and move out of Boston because of it. They pay their council tax, and they don’t deserve it.”
Some councillors however, suggested it would be a “pointless task”.
Councillor Martin Griggs, who proposed the extra CCTV coverage, said: “Those who want to get in the park at night-time will still get in, as I did and many of the people did as teenagers.”
He raised concerns that locking the gates would inhibit everyday users, and asked for timings to take those into account.
A police report before the committee showed an increase of incidents at the park from 101 in April-April 2019-20, to 144 in the same period in 2020-21 with the majority taking place “out of office hours”.
Out of those 62 of those incidents were classed as non-attendance, the majority (135) were classed as priority calls.
A decision to lock the gates during the first coronavirus lockdown between March and April 2020 saw incidents drop to zero.
In a further report, a Community Beat Manager, annoyed about the sheer volume of incidents being called in, pull all the gates shut – but did not lock them – after which there “were no further incidents reported in that night, having been hourly prior to his actions”.
Some of the blame for the increase has been placed on the lockdown and the limit of places to meet. Officers broke up groups as late as midnight, playing loud music and being rowdy.
Other options included full-time security firm presence, use of BTAC operatives and installing maglock gates, but these were not recommended as suitable by officers.