Lockdown easing sees spike in antisocial behaviour in city parks

Brighton police patrolling Hove Lawns on Friday. Picture from @BtonHovePolice on Twitter/Sussex Police


Drug crime and antisocial behaviour in city parks and open spaces has spiked since the easing of lockdown.

Councillors raised their concerns about increasing anti-social behaviour, littering and broken byelaws at Brighton and Hove City Council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee on Thursday 18 June.

Seafront officers have spoken with increasing numbers of people breaking the byelaws relating to Hove Lawns, by having dogs off leads, cycling on the promenade and holding barbecues.

Brighton and Hove divisional commander, chief superintendent Nick May said he has received numerous reports of anti-social behaviour on the seafront.

Chief Supt May confirmed there are PCSO foot patrols in the area encouraging people to follow the rules.

He said there is an “inevitability” to some elements of anti-social behaviour with increasing numbers of people gathering on the seafront as pubs are closed and social distancing prevents visiting friends at home.

But he told councillors the level of anti-social behaviour on Hove seafront is not high enough to warrant a more forceful response than the current patrols.

Chief Supt May said the force is more concerned about increasing crime in St Ann’s Well Gardens, The Level and Regency Square areas.

He said: “Our overall approach within the city is around threat, harm and risk.

“We will target domestic abuse, robberies, burglaries, knife crime, drugs, county lines etc. I would struggle to commit extra resources to cover byelaws.”

Goldsmid ward Labour councillor Jackie O’Quinn said police are supportive and helpful in response to Chief Supt May’s comments.

She said officers are trying very hard to contain issues on the seafront and the severe problems in her ward.

During the meeting, she told the committee she had just received a text from a member of the St Ann’s Well Gardens Committee saying a “gang” had gathered there.

Councillor O’Quinn said: “People are getting pretty scared with open dealing and open shooting up and raves into the early morning.

“We are having a lot of anti-social behaviour, a lot of petty crime. We have problems in Dyke Park, and in Hove Park, there are problems all around our Goldsmid ward.”

Brunswick and Adelaide ward Green councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty said he warned both the council and Sussex Police that warm weather combined with closed pubs and restaurants would see city squares and the seafront “bear the brunt” of bad behaviour.

He said: “In my ward, I’ve had beach huts and shelters graffitied, rubbish piled high, parties that last until the small hours.

“I’ve stopped someone smashing a glass bottle on the promenade.

“The area behind the beach huts and the steps leading to Adelaide Crescent have had to be cleaned because of the stench of urine.

“Residents are frequently complaining of an intimidating atmosphere into the evening and night.”

Councillor Mac Cafferty and fellow Brunswick and Adelaide representative councillor Hannah Clare put together a video about their regular litter picks and the issue of human waste under the bushes in the squares.

Wish ward councillor Robert Nemeth, who has publicly highlighted numerous incidents of beach hut vandalism, said the issue is not just about graffiti.

He reminded councillors of a recent incident when former Conservative city council candidate Rico Wojtulewicz was attacked after intervening in a conflict between a man and woman on Hove seafront.

Councillor Nemeth asked his fellow councillors to support a wide range of actions including regular actions to deal with broken byelaws, better use of CCTV, offering graffiti wipes to the public from the seafront office and dealing with overflowing bins.

The father-of-three said: “We need the support of the police on byelaw infringements that annoy so many people.

“It’s not about killjoys saying no cycling on the prom, it’s about little kids being hurt and kids being knocked over by big dogs.”

He described dealing with graffiti in a timely as a “broken windows” situation where quick repair puts other vandals off causing more damage.

Green and Conservative councillors pushed through all seven suggestions put forward, with Labour members either opposing or abstaining from voting for six points of action.

Committee chair councillor Carmen Appich said the majority of his ideas, including proposals for new signs, fell under other members’ wards.

Councillors unanimously agreed to praise workers at the Seafront Office for dealing with anti-social behaviour on Hove Lawns and beyond.

  1. Valerie Reply

    So basically a negative trajectory is forming so our open spaces are increasingly unsafe….

  2. Billy Reply

    I’m not sure you’ve got your reporting of this right.
    Half the local population is off work or off school or working from home, and with extra time on their hands. It’s sunny and we are allowed out, after 8-10 weeks of being told to stay at home.
    Before lockdown, it was a wet winter.
    We now complain that there are more people in parks or on the beach, and out later or gathering in groups – when this should be no surprise.
    All this will continue until we get more people back to work, or back to school.
    In the short term, hassling people for being out won’t help, and nor will trying to assert rules and regulations at a time when most people have lost all respect for government.
    Bad leadership, is where you don’t understand and adapt to what is going on.
    This is just like when a teacher loses control of their class. Too late now.
    On the plus side, I think people are just using outdoor spaces in a relaxed way – and that’s good. The fact they don’t have to get up early in the morning means they stay out late or maybe drink too much.
    If you want to understand current behaviour then just assume the city is full of locals who are on holiday.
    We people need more cleaners than we need extra police.

    • TOWYN Reply

      You said ‘We need more cleaners than we need extra police’

      Our survey says ‘Hello?!? Is that the police??? There is someone in my house right now, I think they are taking my things! I think they are burglars! Please come quickly… I am scared and I don’t know what to do’

      ‘Hello caller, not to worry, we are sending a cleaner to you right now.’

      Yeah. As if.

  3. GW Reply

    The people best placed to say whether this is a problem or not are those that have to clear up afterwards. That’s City Clean staff and volunteer litter pickers. As one of the latter, I can say that people have definitely started using the shrubberies in our public green spaces as toilets. My haul from litter picking the shrubberies in a public garden in Regency ward yesterday included used sanitary towels, soiled nappies and streams of soiled loo roll. This while side stepping large piles of poo.
    It’s probably in part due to the closure of public toilets, but the fact that people are bringing loo roll to a public garden suggests they fully expect to be taking a dump while they are there.
    They are not even always very discreet. During my stint yesterday afternoon a man pointed percy at the privet while standing on the path immediately next to a bench where a woman was sitting. The concern is that this will become the new normal.
    It’s already an offence to drop litter, urinate or defecate in a public place, but impossible to enforce the laws without more bobbies on the beat. Worth considering a period of zero tolerance to nip this in the bud before it becomes a public health hazard.

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