Police patrol Parks and Walcot after reports of rising disorder
IT’S A glorious March evening and we’re checking bins. Not for litter – but knives. The three police constables, marked against the low Spring sunshine in their hi-vis stab vests, are part of Operation Juvenis.
That police operation was launched several weeks ago in response to a rise in disorder in Walcot and the Parks. The name “Juvenis” – Latin for youth – is no accident. Since early February, gangs of masked young men and youths have been linked to at least two stabbings in Park North and Park South.
PC Holly Moffat, who leads the briefing at Wiltshire Police’s town centre base, tells the Adver: “We’ve got additional officers working to disrupt the criminality and anti-social behaviour in the community. “These are high visibility patrols, so extra officers will be seen in the area.”
Checking the undergrowth for discarded items Those patrols have three objectives. First, to “disrupt”, as police sergeants are fond of saying – to dissuade people from causing trouble.
Second, to catch people in the act. And third, to reassure people in the community that the police are patrolling the streets. On Monday evening, when the Adver joined three PCs on patrol around the area, that meant a significant amount of walking.
We start at Buckhurst Fields, the strip of land dividing Park North from Walcot. Last month, a gang of young men were reported roaming from Buckhurst to Torrington Court, Park North, carrying weapons and making threats. Three people – including two boys – were arrested.
Walking in Buckhurst Fields From there, we check on the occupant of a Park South flat on which police obtained a closure order earlier this year.
They’re not in so it’s on to Cavendish Square, also in Park South. We walk the streets in a large circle – but the only fighting comes from a pair of tom cats who freeze and watch the officers pass with innocent eyes. The next stop is a line of garages.
Over the weekend there’s been a report of youths breaking into one of the lock-ups. Of the fresh-faced burglars there’s no sign. Later in the night, the three officers will check to make sure those with bail curfews are at home.
They’ve been told who to look out for – and that they should be issuing fines for covid breaches, where appropriate. Checking garages after reports of a break-in
And the bins? They’re well-known as a place to stash everything from knives to hammers. It’s for the same reason that the officers check hedgerows and have previously invited metal detectorists to help sweep Buckhurst Field for weapons.
For some young men, carrying a knife is routine. But the consequences can be disastrous. On February 10, a man in his 30s was attacked by a gang of five in Verwood Close, Park North.
He was stabbed in the leg. On March 4, a gang chased down a 19-year-old man in Wolsely Avenue, Park South, and stabbed him. He received multiple wounds and had to be taken to hospital.
Last month, a 14-year-old boy was sent into custody for a string of violent offences – including badly beating a boy in Cavendish Square and brandishing machetes outside houses. And in August last year, another Park South teenager was given custody for stabbing someone with a potato peeler. For the police, they want those living in Walcot and Parks to know that, in the words of PC Moffat “we’re out here”. “They can stop and speak to us or if they’re in fear of that they can contact us and that can be anonymously.
Any information may help us disrupt [the criminals] and gain intelligence.”