TENSIONS between residents and groups of travellers in towns in South and Mid Cheshire are to tackled by Cheshire Constabulary's first gipsy traveller liaison officer.
PC Peter Jones has been appointed to work exclusively within the Congleton and Vale Royal Police Division to ensure clashes between residents and members of the travelling community are dealt with in the same manner across the area.
Police chiefs hope the standardised way of dealing with problems will relieve tensions in shared communities. In recent years South Cheshire has seen its fair share of clashes between the two groups.
In one incident, near Sandbach, farmers doused land with slurry after travellers set up on their property.
In one tragic conflict, 15-year-old traveller Johnny Delaney died after being kicked in the head by a youth in a raciallymotivated attack at Ellesmere Port.
PC Jones said he wants to challenge the prejudice travellers and settled residents have of each other.
He said: 'Residential areas where people from different cultures live can experience problems, but more often this is because people don't understand or accept each other's perspectives.
'Mostly, these differences are quickly settled, usually through some form of compromise.'
PC Jones will work alongside people who live in mixed-race communities, helping to resolve problems and encourage understanding.
He added: 'It would be good if all members of the community could keep in mind that certain behaviour may be considered anti-social and is likely to rub people up the wrong way. On the other hand, some perceptions of gipsies and travellers are wholly inaccurate and cannot be justified.
'Where communities happily live together, there is mutual respect, for each other's culture understanding, trust and tolerance. This is what I'll be looking to encourage.
'I'll be teaming up with all community groups involved through Community Safety Partnerships, to achieve this aim by ensuring the needs and concerns of people living in shared communities are addressed in a fair and unbiased way.'
PC Jones can be contacted on 01244 614277 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org