Surrey Heath has seen an increase in anti-social behaviour in its parks and open spaces in recent weeks. This has included fire lighting, vandalism and damage by individuals and groups gathering at locations including Frimley Lodge Park, Mytchett Recreation Ground, Watchetts Recreation Ground and Frimley Green.
The pavilion at Frimley Green has been vandalised, and protective fencing around the football pitches at Frimley Lodge Park has been ripped down and burned, in an incident attended by Surrey Police officers from the Surrey Heath neighbourhood team. Closed play areas and sports facilities such as the 3G pitch at Frimley Lodge Park have also been broken into with damage caused.
There has also been a recent increase in large gatherings of people in our parks, against the current Government guidance to help stop the spread of Coronavirus. Our officers will disperse these groups where necessary, and the Council is grateful for the support of Surrey Police and their assistance with this where it has been required.
As well as often leaving large amounts of litter behind, some of these groups have also been lighting disposable BBQs in our parks and green spaces across the Borough, including the SANGs (Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspaces) at Chobham Water Meadows and Windlemere.
Lighting fires or the use of disposable BBQs is not allowed in our parks and green spaces, due to the risk of causing a larger fire, and the damage done to the grass.
The extensive damage that can be caused was demonstrated by the recent large fire at Turf Hill and Brentmoor Heath, in which around 15 hectares of natural habitat was burned.
SHBC Portfolio Holder for Places and Strategy, Cllr Rebecca Jennings-Evans, is asking the local community to support the Council in keeping Surrey Heath a safe and pleasant place to live and work.
“It has been a challenging time for everyone, in different ways, over the past few months due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdown.
“However, since the lockdown restrictions have started to ease, we have seen an increase in various kinds of antisocial behaviour in our parks, from lighting fires to damaging property to littering, which is hugely disappointing.
“At the moment our officers’ time and Council resources are being taken up dealing with these issues and repairing the damage caused, which is thousands of pounds which could be spent on much more positive and constructive work.
“We know the majority of local people are not involved in such mindless acts of vandalism and potentially dangerous activities, but we are calling on those who are to please show some consideration for others, and pride in their local community, and stop it.”
Surrey Heath Borough Commander Detective Inspector Alick James said: “Arson and criminal damage can have a significant impact on the community, it increases the fear of crime and it can make areas unsafe.
“The Sentencing Council has recently provided new guidelines so courts can take full account of the full economic impact of arson or damage to historic buildings or public amenities, and the effect on communities when an area’s emergency services or resources are diverted to deal with such incidents.
“Please report incidents of anti-social behaviour and damage so that we can prioritise our patrol areas, prevent offences from being committed and hold offenders accountable for their actions.”
If you see anti-social behaviour in our parks and green spaces please report it.
If it is an emergency, call 999 and report to the appropriate emergency service.
If it is non-urgent:
– report to Surrey Police via 101 or online
– report to the Council here or by calling 01276 707100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Incidents at Frimley Lodge Park can also be reported at the groundsman’s office at the Pavilion when manned.
SHBC and Surrey Police will continue to take action against those taking part in anti-social behaviour, including the use of fines and other penalties where appropriate.