POLICE and council officers spied on youngsters at a skate park for two months...but failed to get evidence of any crimes.

The undercover operation was launched by Basildon Council’s antisocial behaviour team and police community support officers after residents at Markhams Close, Laindon, complained about noise.

PCSOs and council wardens carried out covert surveillance from unmarked cars on Friday and Saturday evenings for two months this summer.

But they didn’t witness any antisocial behaviour – and there were only two reports of nuisance connected to the skate park during that time.

Essex Police’s surveillance operation comes after the force revealed there were not enough officers to attend all burglaries.

Echo: Kevin Blake

No evidence: Kevin Blake

Last month, the Echo reported how police cuts meant officers are choosing between break-ins and life-threatening 999 calls.

Kevin Blake, Tory councillor for leisure, who went on some of the surveillance exercises, said: “PCSOs and council wardens visited every Friday and Saturday over a two-month period.

They did so in unmarked vehicles and did not witness any antisocial behaviour on any occasions.

“There were ten reported incidents, but these were youths riding motorbikes through the surrounding park. There were two reports of youths loitering near the skate park.”

John Williams, 38, from Markhams Chase, has criticised the crackdown. He said: “People have reported drug dealing and vandalism and you don’t hear about undercover surveillance.

“Police don’t even come out straight away when people get burgled. This was a bit over the top for kids on a skate park.”

Echo: Nigel Smith

Just noise: Nigel Smith

Basildon Labour group deputy leader Nigel Smith, whowas contacted by residents over the noise problem, said: “This was never about antisocial behaviour.

It was just that the skate park was noisy because it was too near the homes, so this was not the solution.”

An Essex Police spokeswoman defended their work, saying it was done as part of “routine patrols”.

A council spokesman said officer did not need to get authorisation to do the work as people were told monitoring may take place.


Surveillance: Officers monitored this park for two months

He added: “Officers patrol other areas during the evening as this enables victims to contact the officers directly to enable efforts to be made to witness the alleged nuisance.”

Residents living by the skate park said noise from it had devalued their homes, despite it being there when they moved in.

Councillor Nigel Smith called on the council to relocate the skate park further away from properties, saying he had received repeated complaints.

He said: “It is a very noisy skate park and the only way to resolve it is to move it.”

But councillor Kevin Blake said homeowners were aware it was there when they bought their homes – and they had been up to £41,000 cheaper as a result.


Warning: Sign to keep noise down at park