FORCE FOCUS: We need tighter laws on traveller encampments - The Solihull Observer

FORCE FOCUS: We need tighter laws on traveller encampments

Solihull Editorial 26th May, 2018   0


Unauthorised traveller encampments is an issue that I have spoken and written about many times before. People on all sides have strong views on this issue and no-one is satisfied with how it is being dealt with at the moment.

The number of unauthorised traveller encampments in the West Midlands has more than doubled in the last five years and community tensions have escalated too. This has meant, in the last two years alone, calls to the police on this issue have doubled. People from across the region, and especially in Solihull get in touch with me about this issue, and quite rightly want something done.

That is why over recent months I have been working with local MPs and government ministers to strengthen the laws on this issue, ahead of the Summer when the number of encampments normally increases further.

Currently the problem is simply moved around; this is not an answer nor a solution. Groups that include children and the elderly are often moved around the region at great cost, with neither the travelling nor the settled community satisfied with the result. And lets remember that it is a small minority of the travelling community who are causing these issues.

We in the West Midlands are a long way from a perfect situation, but one thing is clear – transit sites are the first step to improving our approach. Transit sites are council-run locations, linked to water and electricity, where travelling groups can stay for a fixed rent and a deposit. Through this rent, transit sites can pay for themselves.

Most importantly transit sites enable the police to direct travelling groups to these sites, and if failing to do so they have the power to expel such groups from the whole borough.

In Sandwell the council has introduced in a transit site and the strengthened powers that they and the police can now use in that borough have dramatically decreased the number of unauthorised traveller encampments. Other councils are taking this approach too.

In addition to transit sites I am working with MPs to bring in:

* Stronger powers to allow police to direct unauthorised encampments to transit sites across local council boundaries.

* Make repeat trespass on private (including business) premises by unauthorised encampments a criminal offence.

* Allow councils to work together across boundaries to ban problematic individuals from trespassing across whole regions like the West Midlands.

* Financial support for local authorities to develop transit sites.

After months of campaigning, the government are finally consulting on new laws, I hope the new powers we need are part of them so all of our communities have a fairer deal.

I am confident that by tightening up the law and giving the police and councils more powers we can make a big difference.

David Jamieson West Midlands Police Crime Commissioner


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