Possibility of CCTV along “scary” pathway to be discussed after St Albans community rallies around petition

Narrow path on Alban Way

Narrow path on Alban Way - Credit: Archant

Plans to install CCTV along a “scary” walkway which has been plagued by anti-social behaviour may progress further this week.

Approximately 1,200 people have signed a petition calling for more cameras along the Alban Way in response to reports of crimes including drug dealing, reckless cycling, and assault.

In one incident, a man was pushed off his bike and beaten and on another occasion a group of teens threw stones at a jogger.

The petition says: “If there was CCTV down Alban Way, the community would feel safer and these offenders will not continue to get away with these crimes.”

At a St Albans district council (SADC) meeting on December 5, the possibility of CCTV and accompanying lighting on the route was referred to the Community Safety Scrutiny Working Group on January 10.

One of those who signed the petition, Adrian La Riviere said: “The area is extremely secluded but yet provides huge benefit to those who use it daily.

“Those people deserve to feel safe in doing so. Possibly the installation of help points should also be considered.”

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Some signatories recounted their own experiences of crime along the path.

Madeleine Bates said: “Fed up with this wonderful route being blighted by violence and threats of violence. Someone setting up a wire between two trees this week has got to be the tipping point - someone could easily have been killed.”

Amy Tanner added: “I got harassed while cycling home in the dark on the Alban Way by some kids blocking the path with a tree and threatening to steal my bag. I reported it to the police, but by the time they got there the kids had gone.”

Clare Starmer remembered: “I was also assaulted earlier this year when walking home at 5pm on a Saturday. A group of four teenagers cycled up behind me and threw a bottle at the back of my head.”

At the SADC meeting in December, Cllr Roma Mills said: “To what extent lighting will address [the crime problem] I don’t know, but I think it is something to do with the fact that it is out of the way, people do not see it, not many people walk along it and certainly if you think you are going to get beaten up you are less likely to walk along it.”

There needs to be a more visible police presence, she said, echoing calls from Cllr Richard Curthoys and Cllr Daniel Chichester-Miles.

She added: “Crime is being committed here, people are being attacked.

“I know one young man who was attacked two years ago and it had a massively bad effect on his mental health and his confidence and he really became quite paranoid about being attacked again.”

Representing Ashley ward, part of which encompasses the Alban Way, Cllr Anthony Rowlands stressed that incidents are not isolated.

He said: “Certainly over the last couple of years there has been a concerning rise in the amount of anti-social behaviour, reckless cycling, motorbikes and indeed some ugly altercations with people using the park or the Alban Way.

“Certainly the event described is not an isolated incident but is far more serious then any that have come to my notice.”

He said he hopes CCTV would send a message that illegal activity will not be tolerated: “I think we do owe it to residents to do all we reasonably can to make the Alban Way safe - recognising that there are practical concerns.”

Cllr Caroline Brooke said there is a “knock-on effect” of crime: “I have spoken to residents who say their teenage children are actually too scared to use places like Longacres because the fear of being attacked by gangs who will then make their getaway along the Alban Way.”

There were also calls for CCTV and better lighting to be considered for other parts of the district, in line with a Herts county council (HCC) transport strategy which incorporates increased walking.

Cllr Mary Maynard said: “That has its advantages in terms of the reduction in our carbon footprint, the reduction in the amount of road users, however for many people, particularly women, there is real concern about using those very quiet roads and perhaps unlit roads.”

However some councillors raised funding and feasibility issues of lighting and surveilling such a long pathway.

A report on the possibility of CCTV will be discussed at 7pm on January 10 in the SADC Council Chamber

See the petition at www.change.org/p/we-need-cctv-cameras-along-alban-way-st-albans