A NEW task force is being set up to get to the root of issues affecting Weymouth town centre.
A report went before the Management Committee at Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, proposing the creation of the multi-agency task force, which councillors approved.
The new task team will be set up initially for a year and work with different groups including Dorset Police and Dorset Community Safety Partnership, to identify critical issues, and make recommendations.
The report said that Melcombe Regis, which includes the town centre, Esplanade area, train station and Park District, was the ward in the borough with ‘most evidence of multiple problems’.
It added Melcombe Regis as the commercial centre of Weymouth, which has a mixed make-up including retail, business, residential and entertainment and because of this, had historically experienced higher levels of crime and community safety issues compared to other wards.
The committing of crime and anti-social behaviour was likely to be exacerbated by a ‘significant transient population and temporary visitors to the town,’ it added. The misuse of alcohol was also a factor.
The report said Dorset Police’s ongoing operation to crack down on the supply and dealing of drugs in the area, Operation Champion, was having a ‘notable impact’.
Speaking at the council meeting, Cllr Geoff Petherick said that ten incidents of crime were taking place per week in the town centre, at all times of day.
He said the first step was to find out where the people committing crimes were coming from. He said: “Are they coming from the Melcombe Regis area? I’d suggest they are not.”
Melcombe Regis ward councillor Joy Stanley spoke, saying the ward was ‘beautiful,’ with a good community spirit. The report was factual, she added, but did not show the full picture of the area.
Cllr Stanley said she was proud of the borough council’s work in the ward including new crossings, seating and railing and the one-way Park District traffic system.
She said: “It’s a vast kind of ward. There’s a lot of good in the ward and I want to emphasise that because this report looks very bad.”
DORSET Police said they remain committed to tackling criminal activity and to providing reassurance to residents.
Chief Inspector Gemma Morris said: “As part of an operation targeting drug-related crime we continue to carry out intelligence led, high visibility patrols and enforcement activity.”
Police were working closely with different agencies including the borough council to develop their longer-term approach to solving issues in the area, she added.
CI Morris said: “We take the concerns of the public very seriously and we continue to work closely with members of the community to keep the town safe and deal with information relating to drugs offences and other criminal or anti-social behaviour.”
Anyone information about the misuse of drugs should call Dorset Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.