17 October 2006
Knowle West Action Group
I attended the Knowle West Action group meeting at Eagle House. The action group is a multi agency group that meets in order that local community representatives can highlight the current issues there on in Knowle West. Amongst those who attend are the street reps, the local police, the neighbourhood renewal / management team, local housing officers and other local agencies.
I arrived early and was joined outside the building by Inspector Jeff Foreman of Broadbury Sector Police Station. I explained to Jeff why I was attending the meeting and we talked about the digital challenge bid. Jeff told me that he uses digital media to communicate with the local community and that there are ways in which he would like to expand upon this use. He told me that he has a monthly exchange using webchat. The chat room exchange is for the whole area that his post relates to, including Windmill Hill and Southville. He told me that this is quite successful and that there are usually about 30 – 40 people who engage in conversation with him. He told me that this is a useful space for dialogue. He said that one way in which he would like to extend upon this would be through an e-briefing, whereby he could let people know what he is doing to address issues that have been highlighted by the local community.
When I went into the meeting Anita Pearce was documenting the event and gathering a record of those attending with her digital camera.
The group discussed many ongoing issues in the area, as well as celebrating some of the recent activities that have taken place. One such event was the Knowle West clean up day on 30th May. Representatives from Housing told the group how many lorries of rubbish was removed on the day and had a clear set of data, which they shared with the group, about how much of that rubbish, was for example, abandoned white goods. It was reported that there were now only a few remaining houses in the area that had rubbish in the front garden, and one of the housing officers explained what he was doing to address this. Another celebratory item was a national award that has recently been presented to the street reps.
Jeff Foreman then gave a presentation about the work the local police have done to address the concerns of the local community. During this presentation several local representatives wanted to know more about the surveillance camera that has been located on Newquay Road. They told Jeff that they were concerned that the camera couldn’t be working, because the anti-social behaviour that took place regularly in front of the shops on Newquay Road was still taking place. One woman described watching people selling drugs in this space openly and often. Several other street reps talked about an incident that had taken place there recently. Jeff explained that the camera was working, but that the evidence that can be collected through such a source is limited, as it is not always possible to be able to see exactly what people are doing when they congregate there, as they are aware of the camera and avoid making any blatant exchanges before it. Jeff highlighted the consequent need for other evidence of such activities, and the need for more witnesses to step forwards. Local residents articulated the issue around witnessing being that people are too fearful to stand up in court as a witness because of the anticipated repercussions. The group discussed witness support and the potential for developing more ways of anonymous reporting and witnessing. There is clearly the potential for new media to support such developments.
Jeff then talked about the role of the Knowle West Action Group and how the group existed in order that local people could bring community concerns, and articulate the local community’s priorities, at group meetings, so that the agencies attending could address those issues and then report back to the group about how those issues had been addressed.
Mandy Shute talked about how important it is that agencies do report back to let local people know what happens as a consequence of residents going to the trouble of articulating their concerns. She then cited an example of how the neighbourhood management team are working with other agencies to respond to a petition that has been collected by local primary school children. The children’s petition is about a green space where rubbish has been left and which the children would like to be able to use as a football pitch. Mandy said that it is important to show those children that they’re listened to and that something has happened as a consequence. She told the group about plans for the green space and how the children were going to be involved in clearing up the space.