Tackling Antisocial Car Meets: Surrey Police’s Comprehensive Approach

Antisocial behaviour (ASB) related to car meets is a significant issue affecting communities across the UK. A car meet involves car enthusiasts gathering at a pre-arranged location, often showcasing modified vehicles. These meets can escalate into car cruises, where participants drive in convoy to multiple locations. While some car meets are benign, others can disrupt communities and pose severe safety risks. This article, a collaborative piece between Jo Grimshaw from Surrey Police and Green & Burton ASB Associates, provides insights into the problem and details Surrey Police’s proactive measures to address the issue.

Article Contributors: Jo Grimshaw, Surrey Police & Green & Burton ASB Associates

The Impact of ASB Car Meets

ASB car meets have wide-ranging negative effects on local communities and businesses. The noise pollution from revving engines and loud exhausts can be highly disruptive. Dangerous driving behaviours, such as speeding and reckless manoeuvres, pose serious risks to public safety. Numerous incidents across the country, including in Surrey, have resulted in injuries and fatalities. The recent case in Camberley where hundreds of cars descended upon a local car park causing major disruption is just one example of where car related activity goes from a social gathering to anti-social behaviour impacting community safety.

Surrey Police’s Response to Car Meets

The team at Green & Burton were keen to interview Jo Grimshaw, Head of Anti-Social Behaviour, Youth Engagement, Partnerships and Tactical Lead For Serious Violence at Surrey Police to discuss the approach used by the constabulary to tackle this increasingly prevalent issue. The first thing that Jo is keen to recognise is the need for a balanced approach.  “While some car meets are harmless, others necessitate intervention to protect public safety and community welfare. Surrey Police’s strategy involves immediate responses, preventive measures, and long-term partnerships to mitigate the impacts of antisocial car meets”.  Here is an outline of the approach deployed in Surrey:

Immediate Response: Operation HUBCAP

Operation HUBCAP focuses on immediate intervention during problematic car meets. The operation ensures that police presence is established quickly to manage and disperse gatherings that become dangerous or disruptive.

Targeted Preventive Measures

Surrey Police employs a structured approach to deter repeat offenders. This involves issuing advice letters to attendees, followed by Community Protection Warnings/Notices (CPW/Ns) for those who re-offend. The process begins with recording vehicle registration numbers (VRNs) by various police units and partners. These details are then managed by the Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT), often in collaboration with local councils, ensuring a consistent force-wide response. This approach discourages meets from simply relocating to different boroughs.

Long-term Partnership Efforts

For locations frequently targeted by car meets, Surrey Police engages in long-term problem-solving with partners. This includes addressing the factors attracting car meets to certain venues. The Designing Out Crime Officer and the Partnership Joint Action Group (JAG) play crucial roles in these efforts, ensuring sustainable solutions.

Legislation Against Car Meet Social Media Posts

Dealing with antisocial driving often involves using Section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002, which allows police to stop and seize vehicles causing alarm or distress. However, for organisers of car meets, Section 78 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 is more applicable. This legislation targets individuals whose actions create a risk of serious harm to the public, including promoting or advertising car meets on social media.

Operation HUBCAP Plan

Surrey has numerous organised car clubs, many of which do not require police attendance. However, some events attract large crowds and problematic behaviours, necessitating police intervention. The approach involves:

  • Engagement: Officers engage with attendees to gather intelligence and educate them about legal vehicle modifications.
  • Education: Providing advice on legal modifications and promoting safe driving.
  • Enforcement: Taking action against offences, such as issuing Section 59 warnings and gathering evidence using body-worn video cameras.

Longer-term Management For Car Related Activity

A balance is sought between allowing car enthusiasts to meet and minimising community disruption. This involves:

  • Partner Agencies: Making local partners aware and involving them in response plans, including civil injunctions and venue modifications.
  • Public Engagement: Using social media to inform residents and attendees about police operations and potential consequences.
  • Dedicated Hotlines and Preplanned Responses: Establishing specific contact routes for reporting ASB and having preplanned responses to events.

Driving Positive Outcomes

Since implementing this comprehensive model, Surrey Police has seen a significant reduction in antisocial car meets. When such gatherings do occur, the established procedures enable a swift and efficient response. By working in partnership, Surrey Police and local stakeholders can address immediate issues and collaboratively look at the broader context to prevent future occurrences.

Surrey Police’s comprehensive strategy to tackle antisocial car meets combines immediate intervention, preventive measures, and long-term partnership efforts. By engaging with car enthusiasts, educating them on legal modifications, and enforcing regulations, Surrey Police aims to protect communities and ensure public safety while allowing car enthusiasts to enjoy their hobby responsibly. This collaborative effort highlights the importance of community and police working together to address antisocial behaviours effectively.

Other ASB Tools That Tackle ASB Car Meets

Section 222 of the Local Government Act 1972

Street cruising injunctions are legal measures that can be used to combat ASB involving groups of vehicles engaging in activities like racing and performing stunts. Birmingham City Council successfully secured an injunction to address this issue. The High Court granted a three-year injunction, effective from December 2022, prohibiting street cruising across Birmingham. This legal action, enforced by the West Midlands Police, aims to enhance public safety and address residents’ concerns about the dangers and disturbances caused by street cruising.

PSPOs

Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) can be used to tackle behaviours that negatively affect local communities caused by car related activity. Stratford-on-Avon District Council implemented a PSPO under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to address anti-social car meets in Earlswood. The order, in effect from May 2021 to May 2024, prohibits activities such as car cruising, loitering, and the consumption of alcohol or psychoactive substances. Violations can result in fines up to £1,000. This is an example of how the ASB, Crime and Policing Act can have drive progress in promoting community safety.

Tackling Antisocial Car Meets: Surrey Police’s Comprehensive Approach

A huge thank you to Jo Grimshaw for collaborating with us to create this informative piece which provides valuable insight into a topic that is so important from a community safety and neighbourhood perspective.

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