TENSIONS between residents and groups of travellers in towns across 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 division to ensure clashes between residents and members of the travelling community are dealt with in the same manner across Mid Cheshire.
Police chiefs hope the standardised way of dealing with problems will relieve tensions in shared communities. In recent years Mid Cheshire has seen its fair share of clashes between the two groups.
In Middlewich, farmers doused land with slurry after travellers set up on their property. More recently, travellers moved into Harbutt's Field, a site of historical importance, and a pub landlord was fined after refusing entry to a traveller.
In neighbouring Winsford, travellers at Winsford Flashes accepted police advice to move on after fears were raised that they would be a target for drunken revellers leaving nearby nightclubs.
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, a former Community Action Team officer for the town, 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. Misunderstandings occur because of simple indifference, a lack of consideration, or low levels of tolerance.'
PC Jones will also work alongside people who live in mixed-race communities, helping to resolve problems and encourage understanding from all sides.
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, under-standing, 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.'
Congleton and Vale Royal Divisional Commander Tim Jackson said: 'This will not be an easy role and it would be unrealistic to pretend unique problems don't occur in a multicultural community, or suggest we have answers to all the questions and challenges, but this is a step in the right direction. Where problems are identified and substantiated, we want to deal with them quickly and effectively.'
PC Jones will work from the Crime and Disorder Unit in Northwich and can be contacted on 01244 614277 or via e-mail at email@example.com