Wales

Caerphilly estate's dedicated police spark '50% rise' in crime reports

The children from Lansbury and the surrounding streets had to go through a selection and interview process to gain their positions Image copyright Caerphilly Council
Image caption Children from Lansbury and the surrounding streets became "mini police"

Putting dedicated officers back on the beat has led to a 50% rise in intelligence about drugs and crime from a council estate, police say.

For the last two years a police constable and community support officer have been allocated to Lansbury Park in Caerphilly.

The estate has had problems with organised crime gangs and a lack of trust in the police.

But Insp Gavin Clifton said the increase in confidence had been "huge".

Many people on the estate say crime is no worse than anywhere else, and talk of neighbours looking out for each other.

One contractor said he had his tools stolen while working on a house, but after word spread they were returned within days.

Image caption Some of the flats in Lansbury have had security doors fitted

But in 2017 a report claimed there was a lack of co-operation with the police, with a fear of retribution for those who report crime.

This had led to a culture where "crime had become normalised", with everyone perceived as living in a "criminal culture", it said.

'It can be frightening'

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption One young father said he could not wait to move off the estate after a campaign of antisocial behaviour

"A group of teenage boys were throwing things at the windows relentlessly for hours," said a young father with a baby, who does not want to be identified."We tried phoning 101 several times but were told there weren't enough police officers to send anyone out."

He spoke of loud music, smoking, drinking, people urinating in the stairwells, and armed police banging on doors."It can be frightening," he said.

On one of our visits armed police were called to a house after a man - who does not live on the estate - allegedly threatened a woman with a samurai sword.

Life on the estate

'We had to show them we were normal people'

Image caption Anthony and Sarah said patrolling the estate was hard at first but now many in the community had accepted them

Walking down the main stretch, community support officer Sarah Mey and PC Anthony Moore are stopped by children playing.

The pair have become a fixture in the community, attending events and working with families. Now many say they would call them for help.

But before they arrived things were very different.

After the police station shut, Gwent Police had no dedicated presence in Lansbury, and was getting almost no intelligence from residents.

"There were criminals and organised crime gangs who had a free run of the estate," they say.

But since the pair started in November 2017, Insp Clifton says intelligence reports on drugs alone have increased by 50%.

While reports of crime have increased, it is beginning to stabilise.

Image caption Community support officer Sarah taking part in a council-run litter pick to reduce fly-tipping on the estate

One aim was to stop children getting into crime by giving support and building trust in the police.

Anthony started a youth rugby club, while Sarah started the "mini police".

Many of the mothers on the estate say the pair have made a difference to their children's behaviour.

"It's been really positive," says Anthony. "People now feel if something happens they can phone us."

Image caption Insp Clifton said Anthony and Sarah had become like "pied pipers" of the estate, with children following them around

Some of the issues included people being offered cash for their homes to be used for growing cannabis and storing drugs, and crime gangs moving into the estate to deal drugs.

While there are still challenges, they say intelligence is helping them catch those exploiting the community.

"The perception that if people come here and they are going to be stabbed or robbed is not true," said Anthony.

"You are probably just as safe here as you are in the whole of the UK. It's a genuine community where people look after each other."

How bad is crime here?

Crime in Lansbury

The number of recorded crimes in the estate

From November to November for 2016-17 and 2017-18, only up to September for 2018-19
Source: Police.UK

Despite its reputation the estate did not rank as the worst place for community safety in the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation in 2014.

This was actually part of Cathays in Cardiff, an area with a high student population.

An area called St James 3, where part of Lansbury lies, was ranked 104 out of 1,909 small communities - still in the top 10% of the worst areas in Wales for the number of reported crimes and fires, and perceptions of safety.

Recorded crime has also increased over the last few years, but this could be down to increased reports from the estate rather than more crime happening.

Image caption Miley and Tayla are excited to start their new roles as mini police in Caerphilly

"I like helping people, and I like changing the community around a little bit," said Tayla, 10.

Tayla and her friend Miley, 10, are members of the area's mini police, a group of nine to 11-year-olds.

While they are not going to be arresting anyone, they will be learning skills like first aid, and the group will write a story book about their work.

This story is part of a special series from Lansbury Park. BBC News is exploring the challenges and the opportunities for those living and growing up on the estate.

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