What’s being done to stop anti-social behaviour in Ardleigh Green?
- Credit: Adriana Elgueta
Havering authorities have met for a second time to discuss progress to reduce anti-social behaviour at the Ardleigh Green campus of Havering College.
MP for Romford Andrew Rosindell and Havering College principal, Paul Wakeling hosted the socially-distanced meeting yesterday (December 3) with around 15 people from the council, the GLA, the neighbourhood watch team, anti-knife crime charity Taksal and others.
It follows a meeting in which the council invited residents, the police, Havering College, Mr Rosindell and Ardleigh Green Road business owners to participate in a Zoom meeting to discuss the same issues. Up to 200 people attended.
Leader of the council, Damian White has also now announced that mobile CCTV was installed today (December 4) on the corner of Squirrels Heath Road looking into Ardleigh Green Road and Cecil Avenue. It will be there for four months until permanent CCTV is fitted.
In the first meeting on Zoom, Mr Rosindell said: “There’s a feeling that the community has changed for the worse. We can reverse this.
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“To do this everyone has to work together – businesses, police, college, the church.
“There is a positive spirit to put an end to this violence, we need to make a special effort to stamp out that behaviour and return to being a calm community. As your MP I will be fully supportive of everyone who wants to help.”
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Are there more students at the college?
Responding to questions on whether the problem could be to do with an increase of students from other boroughs attending the college, Mr Wakeling confirmed catchment areas had not changed.
He said it was “very much a Havering problem” with 81 per cent of the students coming from the borough. He added that the construction of an additional site at the Rainham campus currently in the works would reduce the population by at least 200.
Are students gathering in and around the nearby shops and takeaways?
Mr Wakeling added that often they leave the campus to get lunch, which had caused a few problems in nearby stores. He said the college had increased the free meals allowance as well as looking to work with store owners on this.
Concerns were also raised about youths gathering outside Poseidon’s fishbar. Owner Hellen Demetriou said that when she sees them gather, she asks them to disperse, and they always do so kindly. She said if any residents feel intimidated by the students or youths, they can come into the fishbar for shelter/reassurance.
Has there been a rise in crime in Ardleigh Green?
Det Insp Kevin Weedon said there had not been a rise in crime in the area compared to last year, if anything there had been a decrease. Mr Wakeling added that one reason for a seeming rise of school-age teenagers on the streets causing trouble could be because of lockdown, with fewer things open to keep them busy.
He said the college had employed more anti-social behaviour officers to patrol the campus, as well as staggered exit times.
Are there enough buses going to and from the campus?
Assistant principal Ian Budge said that long waits between services was definitely a problem, and he has waited up to 30 minutes at times.
He said they were working with TfL to provide more buses to prevent students idly waiting.
The Greater London Assembly member for Havering and Redbridge, Keith Prince said he had an upcoming meeting with TfL commissioner Andy Byford on the timetabling issue.
Have there been exclusions?
With regards to identifying individuals causing issues, Mr Budge said the college had made exclusions but with a “very heavy heart” as it was “not something we do lightly” as opportunities for further education for students are greatly diminished after exclusion.
In the second meeting, he added that the screening for students being admitted to the college was rigorous.
He said: “The previous school, whether it’s youth offending or the local authority, have a duty to share information.
“Sometimes, they don’t have anything to share because it happens in between school and college. If they’ve committed an offence and an agency knows about it we’ll know. If someone’s committed an offence, by and large unless it’s beyond the threshold that we can’t manage their safety and the safety of other students, we’re able to cope with it.
“The real threshold for us is when we’re talking about really serious violent crime or sexual offences and then the risk factors around that person are too hard to control. We know as much as we could know.”
Havering College and community involvement
Executive headteacher of Ardleigh Green Learning Federation, John Morris, said that the school may have “taken their eye off the ball of the importance of working with the community” when Havering College merged with New City College and Havering Sixth Form last year.
Mr Wakeling said: “It wasn’t a deliberate decision to cut off from the community. When you merge three ways, it’s an unbelievably complicated process. It may have been a distraction in a busy and complicated time, but we’re absolutely here for the community.”
For Mr Morris, the withdrawal of funding from the college to the family centre has also meant a decrease police presence in the areas. He said this meant that police could no longer use the centre as their base to patrol, as they previously had done so according to Mr Morris.
Havering College carried out a risk-assessment prior to yesterday’s meeting. It was limited to 15 guests wearing masks and being socially-distanced. Mr Rosindell’s office said the meeting was authorised under “educational activities of a school” which under current guidelines permit 30 people indoors at a distance for “activities relating to residing at a school”.