Local residents around Linley Drive, Hastings, report that gangs of children aged between 9 and 17, the majority of whom are believed to be those of Optivo tenants in the area, have been congregating regularly at the playground at the junction of Wilmington Road and creating ant-social disturbances there – both before and during the current lockdown. The residents say that there has been a history of damage to property and other forms of vandalism, and that the site is used for the open sale and purchase of illegal drugs.
Linley Drive playground
PICTURE: Dave Young
Optivo say that the play area has been closed since 24th March in accordance with government regulations. They removed the swings, taped off a ladder and slide, fitted closure signs, and used industrial steel locks to secure the area. However, according to their spokesperson, these have been removed “by a third party” with force on six occasions since being fixed to the site.
Hastings Police are said to have agreed to make “increased patrols” around the play area. However, the residents feel that the culprits need to be identified and caught, and that only some form of video surveillance, which neither Optivo nor the police have offered, could provide the necessary legal evidence.
The police will not comment directly on operational matters. Equally, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Katy Bourne, sets policing priorities, but will “not direct police activity or responses to incidents”, according to her office.
REBOOT in lockdown
An early intervention programme REBOOT, designed by Mrs Bourne for social engagement with 11-17 year-olds who come to the attention of the police, was launched last spring across Sussex with a £900,000 budget. Its aim is to “help young people make positive choices instead of becoming involved in crime”, and to provide them with “tailored support and guidance”.
It is claimed that this support is continuing during lockdown with a “digitally adapted” programme. “Before, Police Community Support Officers would visit the home of the family and REBOOT coaches would offer 1-1 personalised support. However, all face-to-face support in people’s homes and community settings has been temporarily suspended. So, REBOOT is now engaging with young people and their families via telephone, video conferencing and online activities.”
The PCC office admits: “Young people are struggling with the social restrictions currently in place”, but claims that “the positive distractions and structure that REBOOT provides is working.”
Optivo also claim to be supporting their residents in every way they can during the lockdown period. “We’re promoting online events, ideas and useful resources for families, children and teenagers. Our Sussex Social Impact Team are working on a range of ways to engage with young people via digital channels.”
Optivo have a section on their website for the Sussex area that includes links to East Sussex Community Hub and Sussex Parenting Matters.
• See www.optivo.org.uk
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