There are illegal drugs in Gillingham but the town does not have a drugs problem, local councillors were told this week.
Police community support officer Nicky Fear also told a meeting of Gillingham Town Council on Monday that the ‘County Lines’ drugs phenomenon – where organised groups distribute drugs using phone-based networks that cross county boundaries – has not come to the town.
‘Drugs are everywhere, not just Gillingham. There are drugs, we all know that. [But] we have not got a drug problem,’ PCSO Fear told councillors at the full council meeting held online.
‘And we are very effective because the community will give us lots of intelligence on drugs, people, cars and places. We do act on that intelligence. We do [search] warrants, we do raids, we do stops on vehicles,’ she said.
And on ‘County Lines’ drug dealing she said: ‘If it come to Gillingham we have got the resources to deal with it. But we are aware of it, because of the geographical location of Gillingham.’
PCSO Fear also addressed the issue of anti-social behaviour or ‘ASB’ in the town, including at the recreation ground and over the summer at Bayfields where youngsters were playing in Shreen Water.
She said that the police and also the outreach group Rendezvous – which works with disadvantaged youngsters in Gillingham – had ‘engaged’ with the youngsters involved at Bayfields and also spoken to local residents and the person who complained about the behaviour.
‘It was the kids letting their hair down, they were kids enjoying the hot weather,’ she said.
Responding to a question from Councillor Val Pothecary about the ‘language’ used by some youngsters at the Rec in front of small children, PCSO Fear said: ‘There have been a couple of incidents up there which have been unpleasant. It’s a minority up there, certainly not a majority,’ she said.
‘You’re always going to get an element that will show off in front of the young ones or show off to their friends. You’re always going to get that, whether it’s a skatepark or even in the High Street.’
She told councillors that a key point she wanted to get across was that if members of the public saw something wrong they should report it to the police rather than simply complaining about it on social media.
‘I have seen stuff on Facebook. We do take it on board if we see it there, but we don’t police by Facebook.
‘If it bothered them that much on Facebook then they should be letting us know,’ PCSO Fear told councillors. ‘One incident was reported to us. Other ones have not been. We have to go by what is reported to us.’
Crime, including anti-social behaviour, had to be reported to the correct authorities.
‘People need to be told quite plainly that if they are reporting ASB or crime then they report it to the police and not the council,’ she told councillors. ‘It has to be on our system.’
She said: ‘We deal with the incidents reported to us. Any incident reported to us we will look into.’
PCSO Fear also spoke about the Covid-19 epidemic and the recent full lockdown, when it had been ‘extremely quiet’ in the town from the police point of view. She outlined a few incidents of broken windows in the town and said that thanks to CCTV cameras they had identified an offender for three separate offences – including one that no one had reported.
The mayor Barry Von Clemens said that the officer’s comments ‘backs up the value of the money that the town council has spent over the years investing in the CCTV facility in the town’.
On the new ‘rule of six’ Covid policy and other restrictions, PCSO Fear said that the chief constable James Vaughan preferred officers to ‘engage’ and ‘explain’ and ‘encourage’ people, rather than to have to enforce the law. ‘The last thing the chief constable wants us to have to do is to enforce by fining,’ she said.
‘This is a new way of living and sometimes you just have to explain things to people. These are new times and we’ve all got to get used to it,’ she said.