It is well known that all local authorities suffer at the hands of vandalism and anti-social behaviour within our parks and play areas. This puts a strain on our budgets and affects the local community.
There is a rising problem of anti-social behaviour in our towns and cities with large congregations of youths that use our parks and play areas to congregate. There is evidence of under-age drinking which leads to vandalism. This not only affects the park, in its deterioration, but also the local community as most of these parks are at the heart of them and has led to further anti-social behaviour in the surrounding area.
Whilst local authorities are the main stakeholder in this Project, it very much matters to our residents as stakeholders of their local area. This affects their free play and wellbeing, which in turn supports the Government’s initiatives to tackle obesity and supports early learning and reducing the impact on the NHS by young healthy children and adolescents, giving families a place to share quality time and life together.
Local authorities have over the last few years seen a rise in vandalism and anti-social behaviour within their parks and open spaces. As a result, they have put measures in place to try and combat this increase, with :-
a) More robust equipment, whilst not detracting from inclusive play;
b) Tried to make it easier via call centres/website to report crime;
c) Liaised with partners, e.g. Police, in trying to tackle this growing problem.
Reports have been written. Kingston Upon Hull City Council (KUHCC) has just completed and submitted its Security in the Parks report to Scrutiny and Cabinet highlighting the increase in damage within our parks. Please see attached (Appendix 1) that shows the level of damage from 2016/17 to 2017/18 and associated costs with our 92 play parks, which is reflected across other local authorities both locally and nationally.
As a result of this and the desire to give free play to our residents and promote public health, councils have injected significant financial injection into play parks – KUHCC has recently injected £1.2m over a three year period, currently in its second year. This capital investment has been well received by our residents, but we need to ensure that the investment is protected for the benefit of all and not just the few who would seek to damage and destroy as identified in Appendix 1. £36.860.24 over a 2 year period would put a significant dent in future refurbishment.
We are aware that large congregations of youths with ages ranging from 13-18 are accessing the parks on a night. In conjunction with the Police we are aware that these youths are also involved in a drinking culture, this is also substantiated by the paraphernalia that is found in the parks.
Through our own Civic 1 team (CCTV) we have seen some of these congregations, but unfortunately not all parks are covered by this service or out of view by the nearest camera. Our Civic mobile team do monitor larger parks but with 92 spread across the city it is not feasible for all to be checked and monitored.
CCTV is not adequate in tackling this problem, as previously stated whilst we have good coverage across the city it is not prevalent around our parks and open space. We have adopted the Council’s local website with better sign-posting for our residents to report anti-social behaviour or criminal damage within our parks. This is sporadic and sometimes our residents are fearful of reprisals from these youths, especially in isolated areas with only a few properties attached to the park.
We would like to explore the use of people counters along with GPS technology – perhaps linked with mobile CCTV to allow the LAs to identify when incursions are made in the parks and to alert relevant partners automatically whilst not over-reacting.
This would enable us to identify that there is a congregation within the parks which could allow us monitor and prevent vandalism. We would also like to explore sensors for equipment within the parks to help register damage and what is being targeted to identify patterns.
This would be a joint approach with partners with each council sharing information in this local area based movement, especially with neighbouring councils (ERYC). York would give us a different social/demographic outlook on their open space, all would share with associated partners i.e. Police force and fire brigade at our Area Committee meeting.
Appendix 1 shows an extract from a recent Overview and Scrutiny Report from a member led Task and Finish Group however, it relates purely to asset damage and not;
· Cleansing and repair costs associated with other damage such as smashed glass in paddling pools, damage to trees and bushes, repairs to grass.
· It does not include the opportunity costs of tying up repair/replacement costs nor the lost opportunity of the impact of utilising scare operational teams to undertake reactive repairs and maintenance rather than being on planned activities elsewhere in the city meaning additional costs incurred in either dealing with uncompleted operational schedules such as grounds and tree maintenance or street cleansing, fly-tipping, street lighting etc.
· Another cost is in user experience or the disappointment when a piece of play equipment is then suddenly not available for use.
· It does not include equipment downtime. A recent incident lead to hours of H&S investigation including the potential for a product recall when a zipwire play equipment was attacked with a bolt cropper. The cost of repair was minimal but the zipwires across the city were isolated and therefore not available for use until the Local Authority and the Health and Safety Executive could satisfy themselves of the reasons why.
This project aims to try to quantify the potential for full cost issues not just the cost of repair.
● We will use a project collaboration software tool (either Microsoft Teams, Asana or Clickup) which allows for clear visibility in project status, shared documents and document control – all in the same place, comments and ideas all shared openly and between the project team and associated partners/guests in the project. MS Teams, Asana and Clickup are web-based and secure. All software tools allow for mobile phone updates and alerts so can be used in the field
● We will establish a virtual project Board between the partners and use Webex type meetings timely to the project. The project team will report into Board and a project plan produced with clear goals and objectives linked to this Discovery Project. The Board will also include a private sector technology specialist who has given their time to this project.
● Support and guidance from the Local Digital Collaboration Unit would be welcomed especially before project kick off to ensure previous lessons learned from their other projects are cascaded.
● It would also be useful to ensure that opportunities that present themselves further down the line are explored at the early stage to ensure the project considers all angles and potential pitfalls before setting off down a particular track – such as exploring commercial opportunities for others if the project is successful
● With the almost daily media coverage of data protection and the use of AI, IoT and other applications, guidance on where it believes this will settle to ensure compliance