TRAVELLERS who set up camp in Uttoxeter forcing businesses to close could have quickly been moved on with a public protection order, it has been revealed.
Chief Inspector Steve Maskrey, head of the East Staffordshire Local Policing Team, met with Uttoxeter MP Andrew Griffiths and business owners who were faced with the unwanted visitors last month.
The meeting, held at Uttoxeter Racecourse, was organised to discuss how business owners could deal with the issue if it happened again after the travellers were moved from the Wood Lane racecourse, nearby Dovefields Industrial Estate and then Uttoxeter Leisure Centre before eventually leaving the town.
However, Chief Insp Maskrey revealed if officers had issued the travellers with a section 61 public protection order at Uttoxeter Racecourse, the travellers would have had to leave the town completely and could not return for three months. The order was imposed at the leisure centre.
Instead, the officers negotiated with the travellers and, although they quickly left the racecourse, they only moved two minutes up the road to Dovefields Industrial Estate, forcing businesses to close.
Keith Williamson, of West Midlands Shoe Company, told the meeting one of the children had defecated near his car and front door after being told to by one of the adults.
Chief Insp Maskrey said this was an opportunity missed by officers to get social services involved for the protection of the child who was being used as an intimidation tactic.
However, the business owners did commend the officers for the way the problem was handled in very difficult situation and said they could see the officers also getting frustrated by the visitors.
Chief Insp Maskrey said: “If we had served the Section 61 order at the racecourse then they would not have been able to move on to Dovefields as it is in the perimeter they could not stop in.
“They would have had to leave Uttoxeter completely. Also if they came back we could have arrested them.
“They were the most difficult individuals I have had to deal with in my police career.
“They were very savvy when it came to knowing their rights and rapid also with getting legal advice so it was a battle.”
Mr Griffiths spoke of ways of preventing the situation from escalating again.
These included officers being re-familiarised with their powers in order to deal with travellers, making businesses aware of their rights, looking at what can be done to improve security and asking what can be done to change the law.
He also congratulated Chief Insp Maskrey on the way officers dealt with the situation.
Chief Insp Maskrey added he would put together a guide for businesses informing them what they can do if a situation like this arises again in the future.
He also suggested he meets with a group of business owners on a regular basis to discuss what is happening in the business community and the problems they are facing.