Fighting back in Falkirk

Community Safety Officers are there to help
Community Safety Officers are there to help
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A community’s 10-year battle against antisocial behaviour is getting results.

The fightback started after a group of women were persuaded to go on a Mothers Against Drugs march in Glasgow in 2001

That sowed the seeds of a campaign to win back the streets from the dealers and to tackle head-on antisocial behaviour in all its forms – from drug or drink-fuelled parties to vandalism, violence and abandoned vehicles.

Statistics from a Freedom of Information request by The Falkirk Herald show that, out of all the areas covered by Falkirk Council, Dawson (Bainsford and Langlees) has had the most ASBOs (Antisocial Behaviour Orders) with 13 since legislation was passed in 2004.

Dawson is also one of the council’s priority areas for poverty and has had a reputation over the past two decades as being a bleak place to live after a series of high-profile drug deaths and associated problems.

However, thanks to community activists and the area’s antisocial behaviour team, Bainsford and Langlees is turning things around.

Margaret Hendry, chairperson of Safer Langlees and Bainsford and the Dawson Centre’s management committee, said: “I think the turning point was when we went on the march in 2001.

“We had all had enough and that’s when the community started to come together again.

‘‘I’ve seen people on the street dealing from their cars.

‘‘I picked up the phone and showed one I was calling police, but he came back with paper covering his registration plate

‘‘However, I kept on phoning and I that’s what’s changed now – people are more willing to report these things.”

One continuing frustration is the length of time it can take the authorities to take the action that residents want.

Margaret said one problem family, moved into the Falkirk area from elsewhere, is terrorising part of the area and she believes the council has so far been powerless to prevent it.

She said: “We began a petition to have them removed and everybody has signed it.

‘‘We know these things take time but it can be so frustrating.”

Langlees resident Pearl Hastie (50), a restaurant worker and member of Bainsford and Langlees Tenants Involvement Group, says the area is slowly, but surely, shedding its ‘tough’ image.

“Certain elements in the community spoil it,” she said. “I’ve lived in some pits. I was brought up in the ’60s in Barlanark when the gangs were running about,

‘‘Then we moved to Bridgeton where Jimmy Boyle was going mad on the buses with his swords, then we went to Easterhouse.

“I lived in Langlees for a while and moved away again, but I wanted to come back here.

‘‘My brother is so proud to be living here and I’ve been in my flat seven years now and love it.

“I’ve seen lots of changes here and even the drug problem is improving.

‘‘A lot of the dealers are gone and, while it’s still not perfect, it’s a big difference from seven years ago.

“It was rife back then and there were three deaths in the first year I was here.

‘‘I think this next generation are turning away from drugs because they’ve seen the devastation.”

community safety officer and warden Stephen Bennett and Kirsty Hamilton, have the task of patrolling the Dawson beat.

And they believe it’s the area’s community spirit that’s lifting it out the doledrums.

Stephen (43) said that, out of all the areas he has covered, Bainsford and Langlees stand head and shoulders above the rest, with the Dawson Centre a bustling hive of community activity thanks to the efforts of volunteers like Margaret.

And Kirsty said: “This is a community that’s actually said, ‘You have ruled for too long and we’ve had enough’.

“The people here have empowered themselves.’’

During a normal 13-hour shift covering central Falkirk and up to Camelon and Hallglen, they respond to around 15-20 calls and deal with them on the spot or report them to the police, social services or relevant council department.

“Out of all the areas we work in, this is one of the most binding communities,” said Stephen. “We get a lot of support, little titbits of information that help us. Even when we go and talk to gangs of kids, there’s a good bit of banter and they respect us.

“The problems here will get sorted because everybody persistently complains about it. There’s other areas where we know nothing because no one has rung us or the police. Here, as soon as there’s a problem, it’s reported.

“That’s maybe why there are more ASBOs here than anywhere else because people are more willing to report them. There’s definitely a community spirit in this area.

“The biggest disappointment for me is when people phone about noisy families or whatever and we don’t have an instant fix.

“We have to gather the information until we have everything we need and the decision is then up to other departments. It would be great for people if we could go along on a Saturday night and confiscate the music.

“Although we do have certain powers, we can’t arrest them, so we speak to them on their level. Engaging with the kids, or anyone really, is the main part of our job. It’s the most challenging but it’s also the most enjoyable.’’

Falkirk Council has a range of services to help deal with antisocial behaviour. To report any incidents call 0808 100 3161, or for more information visit www.falkirk.gov.uk