Objective : Looking back on 2023 festival: what were the successes and lessons learnt ?
Louis Krog (Head of Public Protection), Inspector Mike Yates from Gloucestershire Police
The Head of Public Protection (HPP) ran through his briefing note, which set out the additional measures undertaken during Race Week 2023, to reduce the significant anti-social behaviour seen in 2022. These included a reduction in daily capacity at the racecourse, additional marshals, police and PCSOs between the racecourse and town, additional toilets and the ‘war on wee’.
He said it was difficult to measure whether or not these measures could be regarded as a success, but there were fewer complaints about ASB, which mostly relating to the town centre, suggesting the ‘war on wee’ was a success. There was a small spike in the amount of illegal street trading, particularly on Evesham Road, but overall it was felt that this year’s event was better managed than last year’s.
Regarding lessons learnt, the additional toilets displaced the issue, and some areas of town continued to be badly affected. The hydrophobic paint offer was taken up by some residents and businesses but needs to be rolled out earlier, properly funded and more widely applied for full benefit. Feedback from BID suggested a new location for bus pick-ups in the High Street needed to be found, as the current situation can cause anti-social and aggressive behaviour, caused an obstruction of the High Street and issues with widespread litter - GCC needs to be consulted. Parking and traffic management remain issues to be dealt with by GCC and the racecourse, and the lack of parking enforcement, with cars parked and causing obstruction in taxi ranks, pavements and walkways, also needs to be addressed.
Giving the police perspective on the event, Inspector Mike Yates said that race week is by far the biggest and most complex event his force has to deal with, concerning public order, safety, traffic management and community impact, around the racecourse and across the whole town. He highlighted the following points:
- the police worked with the racecourse and colleagues from neighbouring teams, bringing in extra resource particularly for the evenings;
- the biggest change was the traffic management plan, involving partial closure of Evesham Road. This worked well on quieter days, but caused some challenges towards the end of the week, with people spilling onto the road beyond the closure, causing congestion and public safety concerns. There is still learning to be had here, with regard to how long the closure remains and the impact it has on residents. Traffic management isn’t a police issue, but is still something they have to deal with;
- reducing anti-social behaviour is a big part of the operation, with the objective for police to be very visible and to engage in a positive manner. Some PCSOs faced challenging situations, trying to deal with intoxicated people with little support, and it was vital that police were present to give support;
- positive engagement, messaging in advance of race week, and more toilets appeared to result in fewer issues, but it isn’t possible to cater for all circumstances - drunk people often behave badly regardless of any preventative solutions, and police have to think about proportionality in the way they handle them.
Members thanked the HPP and police inspector, agreeing that the event felt better managed overall this year. The following responses were given to Members’ questions:
- traffic management was the responsibility of the marshals and the racecourse. The police would have intervened if they witnessed any problems with the way the traffic was being handled, although this has caused further problems in previous years by removing them from their assigned duties.. It wasn’t known whether marshals received any specific training in traffic management, but if any accidents had occurred as a result of their actions, they would have been liable;
- the road closure was effective and worth doing, although it did annoy some members of the community. The logistics – timings and area covered – could be looked at, but overall it was better having it than not;
- GCC were not invited to attend the meeting, but could be invited to a future meeting, to discuss traffic management and parking enforcement;
- following an incident where repeated assaults on a vulnerable person at the racecourse were recorded as ‘damage to property’ - thus giving rise to the question of whether we can believe police statistics in terms of reported crimes – there are many layers of complexity around crime reporting, and work has been undertaken over the last few years to ensure that every crime and victim is recorded correctly. Unfortunately, individual cases, sometimes in operationally challenging situations, may not be reported as they should due to misunderstandings, volume and not following proper procedure. This is not an excuse however;
- the input of the new Chair of the Local Resilience Forum, DCC West, and his implementation of a Strategic Co-ordinating Group for the event, looking at the whole picture – racecourse and town – was valuable; he brought a huge amount of experience of large-scale events and improved cooperation,
- apart from police motorcyclists from neighbouring forces, and British Transport Police at the station, there was no other mutual aid;
- although a £40 fine may not deter some drivers from parking illegally or inconsiderately, the police can only remove a vehicle if it is obstructing the highway;
- British Transport Police already work collaboratively with the police in detecting potential criminal offending in anyone, intoxicated or not, arriving by train, but further liaison could be arranged, to explore the possibility of ‘dry’ trains, to reduce the problem of race-goers don’t arrive at the station in the early morning already drunk;
- Martyn’s Law and the use of New Burdens Funding for this will need to be looked at in the future;
- the racecourse provided approximately 50 marshals and there were 15-20 council officers from Public Protection at different times of day. From a police point of view, it is difficult to give the exact number of additional officers drafted in, as the numbers fluctuated across the days; a lot of officers were deployed at the racecourse, but the impact on the community also had to be policed. The demand on the constabulary is huge, but a ballpark figure of around 25 additional officers at any time would be correct;
- the ‘war on wee’ cost CBC £3k, and received significant national media coverage, raising awareness of the issue. About 30 individuals and businesses took up the offer of hydrophobic paint.
The Chair thanked the HPP and police inspector for all their hard work and for attending the meeting. He looked forward to hearing about plans for 2024.