|Police patrolling Valley road tonight|
Last night I attended the Valley Road neighbourhood watch at the Sturdee Club on Sturdee Avenue. Though I don't live in Valley Road, it was suggested I went along by Lib Dem Cllr. Diana Smith as I knew about a couple of the issues from first hand experience.
Forrester's Hall sits opposite the Cricketers pub and has been used in the past as a polling station and general hall for hire, indeed two of my daughter's birthday parties were held there. In June 2013 the caretaker told me that he hoped to sell it but I never heard more than that until January 5th this year. On my way home from work I noticed the side door open and the lights on. Further investigation showed the extent of the damage with windows smashed, floor boards ripped up and evidence of a fire and alcohol consumption. I duly dialled 101 and informed the police. In the following week I saw students of Robert Napier school (in uniform) entering the hall before school though being late for work I did not have time to confront them and the hall has since been locked.
On other occasions I've encountered groups in the alleyways and garages between Sturdee and Valley who have either been confrontational or exceptionally sheepish but never thought much about it, except on one occasion when I was walking my children home from Woodlands.
Last night proved the situation has become much worse. According to the residents of Valley Road, a street I had experienced as quiet and sleepy, a group of youths were causing mayhem. There was vandalism to vehicles, property, theft, dangerous driving of scooters, foul language, under aged smoking and drinking and even drug abuse. They use the alleys and garages as a rat run away from the main roads and escape route from the police should they turn up. The sense of outrage among residents was very clear to see and action is being demanded.
Gillingham South Liberal Democrat Councillor Geoff Juby, together with his two fellow ward candidates for the forthcoming 2015 Local Elections and Cllr. Diana Smith, with her fellow Lib Dem candidate for Watling ward listened and contributed to the meeting by promising to look into the cost of gating up the alleyways and the effectiveness of the consultation process. The Community Warden for Rainham North, who was also in attendance at the invitation of Cllr. Diana Smith also agreed he would pursue the matter and was a useful source of information.
Residents have been advised to report ALL anti-social behaviour on 101 and all public property damage to the council on 01634 333333. There were a lot of individual experiences of the antics of a small minority of youths but as a community everyone needs to stand up and say ‘No’ and this is what happened last night.
There was no police attendance at the meeting last night and despite the PCSO’s letter of apology stating that not only was it his off duty night but he had prior plans (all understandable), there was anger that no stand-in would come. The residents are feeling abandoned and not important enough, strongly suggesting that if we were living in Rochester then this would have been sorted out very quickly.
We will be following these matters up and collectively updating residents at an early future meeting.