Police patrols are being stepped up in Ripon after a spike in anti-social behaviour during the coronavirus lockdown which councillors say has created the “perfect storm” for crime.
Several incidents have been reported in recent weeks, including street robberies, assaults on emergency workers, members of the public being spat at and pets being kicked.
One city councillor said that residents had been threatened with knives in what has “historically been a safe place to live”.
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The crime spate prompted an “urgent” meeting on Tuesday between North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan and Ripon councillors who raised concerns that officers have been unable to do their jobs properly because there aren’t enough of them.
Ms Mulligan later said she was “confident” that North Yorkshire Police was “dealing robustly” with the problems. The force has now announced it will be stepping up patrols in response to the crimes, which it said “will not be tolerated”.
Inspector Alex Langley said: “Whilst we appreciate the rising community tension has been caused by a small handful of offenders please be assured that we are still here and present in Ripon.
“We are actively patrolling, and we will take all action necessary to deter offenders, prevent crime and enforce where necessary”
Inspector Langley said in recent weeks officers had made “a number” of arrests, recovered drugs and seized criminal property including cash, imitation firearms and other weapons.
He said: “This operation is not a long-term solution and we are working in the background with key partners on longer term plans to safeguard those most vulnerable in Ripon and prevent the most harm from offenders.”
Speaking after the meeting on Tuesday, councillor Andrew Williams, leader of Ripon City Council, said empty streets and dark evenings during lockdown had created the “perfect storm” for crime.
He said some residents of the North Yorkshire city – including himself – were too afraid to leave their homes on an evening but expressed hope that crime levels would drop during the stepped-up patrols and longer daylight hours in spring.
“I’m pleased steps are being taken to remedy the problem and inspector Alex Langley appears determined to stamp this out,” councillor Williams said.
“I’m also pleased Ms Mulligan gave a full and frank acceptance that more needed to be done. Clearly more officers on the ground would resolve this problem quickly, but we appreciate police are working under difficult circumstances.”
In a direct plea to the groups of young people believed to be responsible for the crimes, Inspector Langley said: “If you commit anti-social behaviour and mindless acts of theft and criminal damage we will take every opportunity to investigate and prosecute you.
“As a young person you may not realise that throwing that stone or stealing some alcohol may result in a criminal record – and that a criminal record could prevent you accessing higher education and certain types of employment.
“Please stop and think about the consequences of your actions and how your decisions today could impact on your future.”
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