COVID-19 has not halted antisocial behaviour (ASB) in Salisbury, with more than 1,600 incidents reported to police in the last 12 months.

ASB covers a wide range of offences. In recent months the Journal has reported on a range of problems, from an increase in graffiti in the city to damaged memorial trees - all despite a national lockdown instructing everyone to stay at home.

Data from Police UK has revealed that 1,692 acts of ASB in Salisbury and the surrounding villages were reported to the force between February 2020 and January 2021.

Between August 2020 and January 2021 inclusive, Police UK’s crime map revealed that the five ASB hotspot areas in the city centre were Bridge Street, with 19 incidents reported, Minster Street, Brown Street and Rollestone Street, the Market Place and Culver Street Car Park.

READ: The 10 crime hotspots in Salisbury city centre

Minster Street at night, Salisbury - An ASB hotspot according to Police UK data Picture by Spencer Mulholland

Minster Street at night, Salisbury - An ASB hotspot according to Police UK data - Picture by Spencer Mulholland

'Problem solving' - Police response to ASB

Based on Wiltshire Police data, Acting Inspector Tracey Holloway, from the Salisbury area community policing team, revealed officers dealt with 469 confirmed incidents of ASB in Salisbury over the past 12 months.

She added that police officers “largely focus on problem solving” to prevent reoffending. For example, at present there are seven addresses that are subject to closure orders across the Salisbury policing area.

Responding to Police UK figures, Inspector Holloway said: “ASB covers a broad range of offences, but the police divide it into three groups - personal, environmental and nuisance. Sometimes this is a police matter, sometimes it is more suitable for another agency, such as the local authority, to take action.

"It’s important to note that the data held on the Police UK website relates to the initial reports we receive from the public, so could be later reclassified, and covers the entire area for Salisbury police, including Wilton and Alderbury.”

Graffiti near Culver Street Car Park Picture by Spencer Mulholland

Graffiti near Culver Street Car Park - Picture by Spencer Mulholland

'Cabin fever' could lead to ASB spike

Former Salisbury City Council leader Jeremy Nettle said “cabin fever” during lockdown may have contributed to some spikes in ASB.

He said: “Since Covid-19, and while many have suffered from cabin fever, there has been a number of reports of ASB across the city parks and play areas, from leaving litter to damaging the skate park and memorial trees.”

He added it is a “pretty well known fact” that there is an increase in city centre ASB during holiday periods and in the lead up to school exam results.

But despite an apparent rise in recent reports of graffiti in underpasses, and partying in parks and drunk and disorderly behaviour, Councillor Nettle said these are not new issues and have been problem areas within the city for some time, before Covid.

“There is some ASB attributed to the homeless that can be alcohol induced that results in swearing and shouting,” he said.

Damage to windows at Wiltshire College Picture by Spencer Mulholland

Damage to windows at Wiltshire College - Picture by Spencer Mulholland

Working together to tackle ASB

In Cllr Nettle's view, cooperation is key to taking on the issue.

He added: “The city’s CCTV in conjunction with security officers works closely with the BID, whose retail members use short wave radios, and Pub Watch, which together can identify early signs of ASB, including shop lifting and drug pushers, and we can alert the police.”

'Huge increase' in litter

Mayor of Salisbury, John Walsh, raised concerns about littering as part of the broader problems in the city.

He did argue there had been a “huge increase” in rubbish left in city parks and roadsides following the previous lockdown.

He said: “Wiltshire Council is currently spending around £2.5 million on clearing up roads in Wiltshire and the city council had to deploy considerable resources to clear up the mess last time.

"Please take your rubbish home especially as the livelihood of our city centre shops depends partly on attracting visitors, and they are more likely to come if the city looks clean and tidy.”

Graffiti in the underpass from the Friary to Churchill Gardens, Salisbury

Graffiti in the underpass from the Friary to Churchill Gardens, Salisbury - Picture by Spencer Mulholland

'Tackling the root causes of the issue'

Inspector Holloway said police took every report of ASB seriously and agreed working together was a good way to tackle it.

She added: “We know that any amount of ASB has a huge impact on our communities and our neighbourhood teams are committed to tackling the root causes of the issue.

"We have excellent working relationships with other agencies, ensuring a joined up approach, and we have been proactive in obtaining a number of closure orders at addresses where we have seen continued problems.”

Police on Rollestone Street, Salisbury

Police on Rollestone Street, Salisbury

Covid-19 breaches could be classed as ASB

Inspector Holloway added in some instances the breaching of Covid restrictions could be considered ASB, which may have inflated the figures: “It’s also important to note we have been dealing with a pandemic over the past 12 months, which has resulted in a high number of reports about potential breaches of the Covid-19 restrictions, which could sometimes be classed as ASB.

"We would always encourage people to report ASB to us – our neighbourhood teams need to build up a picture of our communities, so they can plan operations, patrol plans and visible policing.

"Your information feeds into this, so please ensure you call us on 101, report via our website, or call 999 if a crime is in progress."

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