A GRAND vision to make the River Nene and the Embankment a centrepiece for leisure in Peterborough has seen the launch of a new joint operation.
For the first time, Cambridgeshire Police have teamed up with the Environment Agency – aiming to rid the water of jet-skiing yobs and clear the banks of illegal drinkers, illegal fishing and other anti-social incidents by tackling the problem from both land and water.
It is also part of the Environment Agency’s ambitious Peterborough Waterspace Strategy to transform the River Nene into a safe place for families and has also seen the agency talking and working with Peterborough City Council leader cllr Marco Cereste to try to get his river bus and water taxi scheme off the ground.
The operation to reclaim the river for the people was launched last week when the Environment Agency’s Nene Waterway team leader Sue Cant took neighbourhood police sergeant Rebecca Bretherton on a boat to highlight the places where jet-skiers race and also to spot places to set up covert surveillance.
Sgt Bretherton said: “To get the different perspective and spotting areas which we can target has been useful as it has given us a good idea as to the places we can gather evidence from.
“Looking at the jet-ski issue we need to get more signage in and make it more obvious where the mad mile is. It’s not about stopping people having fun but ensuring it is not to the detriment of other users.”
The operation, which will run for the rest of the summer, will include not only a high visibility presence on the river but also covert operations using plain clothes police at varied times of the day and night on the banks to catch offenders.
Pc Snowy Aga said they would be striking when the miscreants least expect it. He said: “There are three major issues, jet-skis and boats, anti-social behaviour from drinking to drug taking and sexual activity and fishing.
“ We are putting together a dossier of evidence in which we can then prosecute.
“This is a beautiful stretch of water and we want to help the council to ensure it becomes somewhere people will flock to.”
Ward councillor Marion Todd backed the new operation and said she was delighted that the problems blighting the river had been brought sharply into focus.
She said: “I have said it so many times but the River Nene is the jewel in the crown of the city and we must attract more people to it.
“However to do that we must ensure it is an attractive place to visit.
“I have noticed recently an increase in cyclists and dog walkers and it is these people along with families and people wishing to enjoy the river we need to encourage to visit and not be put off by anti-social behaviour.”