MKFM can exclusively reveal that the number of reports to Police regarding travellers sites in Milton Keynes has increased by over 340% in the past twelve months.
In a freedom of information request, MKFM has been told that Thames Valley Police received 211 reports of incidents related to ‘Unauthorised Encampments’ within in our borough in the twelve months leading up to the end of June 2018.
That is compared to just 62 reports of incidents in the preceding twelve-month period, running from July 2016 to the end of June 2017.
MKFM has been told that travellers have now been in the Oxley Park area for almost a week
One source told MKFM: "Police were taking a proactive approach up until about 18 months ago, travellers weren’t able to settle and they knew Milton Keynes was virtually a no go area. It appears the Police are risk adverse now and waiting for the land owners to take action through the courts."
It is important to note that an incident being logged by Police does not necessarily mean that a crime has been committed.
Responding to the new figures, Milton Keynes Council Leader Cllr Peter Marland said: “We are aware of increased traveller activity in the area this year, and that many residents have concerns. The Labour administration recently agreed to substantial funding to protect vulnerable sites, and to investigate using other powers to move unauthorised encampments on more quickly."
"We have been working closely with partners such as the police and Parks Trust to act quickly when issues arise. We are also investigating longer term solutions to avoid issues in settled communities. Criminal activity is a matter for the police, but we are working with them on collecting evidence on issues such as criminal damage and fly tipping to ensure those guilty of any crime can be brought to justice.”
Conservative Group Leader Cllr Alex Walker said: "Unauthorised traveller encampments can be a nuisance for local communities and a completely inappropriate use of open space. The Council and other stakeholders were very slow in recognising the increase in authorised encampments and even slower in taking action. We are pleased after months of pressure, they are now listening to us and residents."
"The Council are finally improving the process to remove encampments, installing physical barriers at sensitive sites and pursuing injunctions."
Earlier this month, the local MPs for Milton Keynes said they had become concerned by the increase in the number of encampments, and Labour locally committed to a more robust approach in dealing with the issue.