Peterborough’s police chief says he understands people’s frustrations about travellers but he defended the police’s right to treat them differently from other residents.
Supt Andy Gipp was speaking to the Peterborough Telegraph after travellers were not given a parking ticket despite camping in two city car parks.
Peterborough’s area commander said: “I understand the frustration and resentment that some people are feeling. But giving someone a parking ticket when you’re dealing with an issue where they are sorting out where to reside - that’s not a realistic solution.
“I understand why it looks like we deal with it differently, but that’s why we have discretion and are trusted to respond to things in a mature manner.”
The travellers in question pitched up onto the car park outside the Crown Court and Key Theatre on Tuesday, January 24. After being served an eviction notice they then moved a few yards away onto the Bishop’s Road Car Park where they have now left.
A council spokeswoman said: “We work closely with the police when dealing with unauthorised traveller encampments, and during our discussions with them we agreed that on this occasion we would not issue parking tickets.”
The PT asked Supt Gipp about comments MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson has previously made in his column for the paper.
Mr Jackson wrote about a round table summit both himself and Supt Gipp had attended, stating: “The police admitted that their response in the past had been poor and needed improving and it was agreed that the message to potential transgressors needs to be much tougher and every avenue - including injunctions and arrests and convictions - must be explored.
He added that the “time for ‘soft touch’ approaches has come and gone,” and that Supt Gipp “heard the message loud and clear.”
Responding to those comments Peterborough’s police chief, who took up the role last October, admitted he would review the force’s response to unlawful traveller encampments.
He added: “We had a very productive, open and frank conversation about some of the issues faced last year.
“There’s a significant amount of legislative options available to deal with unlawful encampments. What we have to ensure is we get the balance right. There’s no doubt some businesses went through a very difficult time last year which appears to have had a disproportionate amount of impact.
“Breaking into premises, criminal damage, public order offences - that’s where we should be using police powers.
“But what we are actually dealing with here as well is a complex issue, and we have got to find a balance between using legislation against communities for unfair access and working with the council and other agencies and partners to resolve the problem of not enough provision for sites.
“This is a problem across the country and not just in Peterborough.”