THE WEST Midlands crime commissioner and a group of 15 MPs have called on the government to give police and councils stronger powers to deal with unauthorised traveller encampments.
The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), David Jamieson, and the group of Labour MPs have lodged their response to the government’s consultation into unlawful camps which began in April and concludes this Friday (June 15).
The group has called for increased powers for police to direct unauthorised encampments to ‘transit sites’ across council boundaries.
These official sites are created to house travellers on a temporary basis after they are removed from an unlawful site.
The group also wants repeat trespassing on private premises to be made a criminal offence.
It called for increased communication between councils to identify and ban problematic individuals who offend in the region.
And it wants to ensure laws are robust enough to make fly-tippers pay for clean-up costs.
Mr Jamieson said: “A majority of MPs in the region have come together with me to call on the government to tighten up the law to give police and councils the powers we need to tackle unauthorised encampments.
“This collective call is larger than anywhere else in the country.
“The current system is failing everyone that is why I have come together with MPs from across the region to tackle the issue.”
Transit sites would be council-run facilities, linked to water and electricity, where travelling groups can stay for a fixed rent and a deposit.
But Dame Caroline Spelman, MP for Meriden, has previously claimed transit sites would not be a ‘guaranteed solution’.
She said: “Transit sites only serve as an effective solution if there are a sufficient number of pitches available to accommodate for the entire travelling community.
“We recently increased the number of authorised traveller sites to meet demand but found travellers did not use them.
“My concern is that a transit site cannot provide a guaranteed solution.
“We are working to secure laws that will recognise illegal and unauthorised encampments as a criminal offence.”
West Midlands Police says 999 and 101 calls relating to unauthorised encampments have doubled in the last two years.
The PPC says since the introduction of a transit site in Sandwell there has been a sharp reduction in cases of encampments.