It comes after high-profile incidents shocked the city during previous summers, including a 100-strong youth ‘riot’ at the Hot Walls in 2019 and a vicious assault that left a woman with serious head injuries in Southsea Common in 2020.
Now police have started ‘pro-active patrols’ to identity the areas likely to draw crime and anti-social behaviour as warmer weather approaches.
Superintendent Clare Jenkins, police district commander for Portsmouth, said the force was ‘ready’ for a spike in crime over the summer after incidents in unexpected parts of the city in past years.
The senior police officer said: ‘There's definitely learning to come from each year when we tackle this.
‘And I think the one thing that we've learned is that we need to be agile in our response – because the community surprises us every year in terms of what pops up, in terms of new locations and new concerns.
‘If it's a hot summer, you'll find it's maybe children, young people jumping in the water, staying out late at night, and maybe being noisy late at night.
‘We can't eliminate all of those incidents from the city, so we're always trying really hard to monitor any potential community tension. So that comes down to the public talking to us so that we understand that.
‘I'm not terrified about the summer – we know that there is an increase in demand on policing in the summer months, and we're ready for that.’
As the cost of living crisis makes cash increasingly tight across the city, the force has seen an increase in thefts from motor vehicles and similar crimes, according to Superintendent Jenkins.
She added: ‘The reason why we're patrolling already is not because we've had a massive increase in antisocial behaviour reported. In fact, we haven't. But it's almost evidence gathering for us, so we can start to see where people are going to be hanging out, where the likely problems are try, and identify hotspots early so that we can then target our resource into the right places.’
Businesses previously targeted by anti-social behaviour around Southsea welcomed the patrols – and hoped to see even more in the future.
Mark Wilson, the owner of Southsea Model Village, which was trashed by vandals last May, said: 'We just want more regular patrols, especially in the Rose Garden, where a lot of people get drunk and smashed.’
At the nearby Canoe Lake Cafe, cafe staff agreed but were doubtful if the police had the staff.
The manager of the cafe said: 'We've had problems in the past - vandals. A couple of years ago someone stole our pedalos - we found them in a bush.
'It would be nice have a few more police patrols, but at the end of the day. And I'm not sure they have the police to do it.’
According to the 2020 Crime Survey of England and Wales, public confidence in the police has been on a downward trend over the last two years – from 62 per cent in 2017 to 55 per cent in 2020.
Meeting with residents to discuss issues including crime in North End, former police officer and former Portsmouth City Council lead on community safety Councillor Lee Hunt echoed residents’ repeated concerns about police numbers and public engagement in the city.
Cllr Hunt said: ‘I wish that the police and the council would get more involved in the community Facebook groups. They would see how upset people are about the amount of crime in the city. Instead I have to screenshot the comments and send them to the police HQ.’
Superintendent Jenkins said the force was ‘certainly improving’ its dialogue with the community, and the police officer called on residents to report all incidents even if they are doubtful the crime will be solved.
She said: ‘We are in conversation now with the community and that does make real difference.
‘It’s really important to us that people do take the time to report (crimes and anti-social behaviour). If I don’t know that something’s happening, we’ll be patrolling but we may not be patrolling the right areas of the city.’
As well as calling for more information from the public, Superintendent Jenkins called on the PM to expand his pledge to get more bobbies on the beat across the country.
She said: ‘I would still ask for more of us.
‘Obviously, we've got our student officers in place, but they are completing a degree course alongside policing.
‘It will be a while until we really realise the benefits of having those student officers, so I'd like that, and I’d like longer term investment in solutions, so it's not politics based on an election cycle, but actually they look at long term solutions.’
From May 2020 to May 2021, Hampshire Constabulary took on 445 recruits as part of a Home Office-funded uplift after years of budget cuts.