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FEATURE: Out and about with night-time community wardens

David Lee

David Lee

Community wardens have been patrolling the streets of the Royal Borough on Friday and Saturday nights for nearly a year now, helping to manage the night-time economy. Reporter David Lee joined two on Friday for a shift in Windsor.

As the beer gardens of Windsor begin to fill up, the atmosphere building with every pint served, it’s clear this could be a busy evening for the Royal Borough’s community wardens.

For now, the streets are quiet. But, in a few hours, revellers will be pouring out of the pubs and clubs and heading for either the nearest kebab house or home.

It’s nights like this which led the council to launch its night-time economy pilot scheme back in July last year.

The scheme, initially piloted for six months, saw the borough’s 17 community wardens placed on a rota where they would patrol the streets of Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead on Friday and Saturday nights from 7pm to 3am.

The aim, the borough says, was to assist in the management of the night-time economy by carrying out licensing checks, dealing with noise complaints and helping monitor anti-social behaviour.

Trish Canziani, from Hurley, a community warden for eight years, said: “It was something residents wanted.

“Issues like noise disputes get reported in the early hours of the morning so in order to make sure we’re aware of it we need to be able to witness it.

“We are the eyes and ears.”

Trish is joined by fellow senior community warden and former Thames Valley Police PCSO Andy Aldridge, 50, for tonight’s shift.

And he makes it clear that tackling anti-social behaviour is not about diving head on to a confrontational situation but taking preventative action throughout the evening.

Andy said: “It’s been a hot day and we know people have been in the pub drinking.

“We’re not police so we don’t want to go into confrontational situations.”

After ensuring that licensed taxis waiting outside Windsor’s Theatre Royal are in their designated bays, we move on to Peascod Street where Andy and Trish check that businesses have not left rubbish bags and stray bottles lying outside. It may sound unglamorous but it’s a crucial part of the battle against anti-social behaviour.

“There’s been incidents when bottles have been left and used as weapons so on our foot patrols we scout around and pick up any spare bottles,” Andy said.

“There’s a lot of immeasurable things that we do.

“We might not have prevented something happening but if we pick a glass bottle up from the street, how do we know that we haven’t prevented someone being bottled later on?

“It’s the little things that can potentially make a big difference.”

Throughout the evening, you can hear the sound of Andy and Trish’s radios going off and it’s clear that this is about teamwork.

Andy tells me the community wardens can play a vital role by gathering intelligence on any emerging anti-social behaviour issues for Thames Valley Police.

Noise complaints rank highly on the list of problems affecting Royal Borough residents, according to the community wardens.

And it’s in the latter part of the evening that Trish and Andy try to tackle this problem by listening out for any pubs that may have gone over their licensing hours.

Offending pubs or clubs are reported back to the relevant council department, which will then take the issue further.

The small hours, from 1am to 3am, are more vehicle-based and can see the community wardens called to Ascot, Windsor or Maidenhead to help deal with any issues.

Then, to round off the evening, it’s all about paperwork as the community wardens record any night-time economy issues they have encountered during their shift.

Managing the night-time economy in towns such as Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead is a complex operation.

But steps are being taken to maintain the thriving night life without disturbing the residents and that, in Andy’s opinion, makes the night-time economy community wardens scheme a job worth doing.

“We can’t fix the world but we’ve listened to what residents want and we’re trying to act on that,” he added.

 

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