At the end of last week, residents alerted me to incidents of violence and intimidation around Havering College's Ardleigh Green campus, as well as persistent antisocial behaviour. Naturally this has been causing a great deal of worry in the wider community, particularly as the campus is situated in a residential area and near a primary school.
I immediately raised these concerns with the Principal of Havering Colleges, Paul Wakeling, and requested an account of recent activity on the campus as well as information on the steps the College would be putting in place to manage antisocial behaviour, identify any students involved, and deter non-students from congregating by the campus. I also got in touch with our excellent Borough Commander, Stephen Clayman, to make sure police were in contact with college management to tackle these problems and to get more information on the dispersal zone that had been put in place.
The dispersal order was put in place on 29 October for 48 hours following an incident near Ardleigh Green Road Tesco, however this incident appears to be unrelated to the concerns regarding an assault of a student, which is currently an ongoing matter being investigated by the Metropolitan Police.
I was pleased to receive updates on Friday and over the weekend to my concerns and it seems that several students are currently suspended after an incident within the campus. The college are also implementing drugs dog searches and knife arches. I know residents are concerned that these issues might involve people from outside the borough. The college have not changed their catchment area from the previous year and a lot of the people involved are from Havering. The police are actively investigating.
The college are also implementing staggered releases and exits to assist with gatherings at local shops and bus stops and wished to reassure local residents that action is being taken to tackle this type of behaviour. There is no way of preventing a large number of people leaving at the end of the day but the college is communicating students to go straight home. Transport for London are working with the college to increase the number of buses at finishing time to help move students away from the area and reduce crowding, and the college is pushing to increase the take up of free school meals (which has not been as high as hoped) to encourage students to stay within the college as much as possible.
They have also invested in extra student safety staff to patrol neighbouring areas, keeping an eye out for students’ safety and supporting the management team on campus. The college is reviewing their internal policies which include exclusion of the students involved and the police have encouraged publicising this so that this kind of behaviour is deterred further.
There has been a drug dealer targeting the Ardleigh Green campus, however the police appear to have had some successful activity in tackling this problem. The number of patrols has been increased and police are working to identify those involved in incidents and criminality through various tactics and will prosecute where they can. They are also actively looking at orders that can be applied to individuals to keep them away from the area. I have arranged to meet with the Borough Commander the Friday after next and will be asking for a progress update to see how well the college has been working with local officers to tackle these issues.
I appreciate the concern that this will have caused local residents so am very glad that police are working proactively on safety in the vicinity through stop and search and have already identified people carrying weapons. I am also glad to see their close working with the college, and I shall continue working with the college and police, raising any further concerns from residents should constituents wish to get in touch.