A further public meeting was held this week (26 January 2016) to look at issues in Harrogate around anti-social behaviour on the streets.
The meeting was an update meeting to a previous meeting in November 2015. The first meeting had been called by Cllr Richard Cooper after a number of people had contacted him around town centre drinking issues.
There were around 40 members of the public present listening to a panel working on the issues:
- Richard Cooper – Harrogate Borough Councillor or town centre ward
- Julia Stack – Community Safety & CCTV Manager, Safer Communities, Harrogate Borough Council
- Mel Greaves – Community Safety Co-ordinator, Harrogate Borough Council
- Sergeant Ed Rogerson – Harrogate Police, town centre
- PC Graham Frostick – Harrogate Police, town centre
The meeting discussed a two-pronged approach, offering those that need help the support that they need and also the use of legal powers against individuals, or to give the police greater dispersal powers.
Statistics were tabled and showed a similar level of incidents for Nov/Dec/ Jan over the last 3 years. But that does not mean there was not a spike in incidents during late 2015, the driver for this group.
Each panel member gave an update, with the main points listed below.
Sgt Rogerson, North Yorkshire Police:
The problems had diminished, but their focus on the problem had not.
Part of the reduction in the issues was down to the amount of bad weather.
Many of the people causing problems had been identified and they were offering help and support. That was with dealing with issues, such as drink and drug use or getting people back into work. This approach has worked in a number of cases and is ongoing work.
With some of the worst offenders Criminal Behaviour Orders had been used (these replace ASBO’s)
In response to a café owners concern around people congregating and causing problems outside their premises, Sgt Rogerson said they could also use 48 hour dispersal notices.
The deportation of two repeat offenders was cited as a positive factor in a reduction of incidents.
He welcomed the Crime Commissioner giving £20k to the Harrogate Homeless Project (HHP), to help support their work and also indicated that there was a further funding bid by the HHP for a dedicated outreach support worker.
He noted that it was the best multi-agency response that he had seen and thanked all local residents for their support.
All incidents should be reported as it gives them vital intelligence to act upon.
Mel Greaves- Community Safety Co-ordinator, Harrogate Borough Council:
Public space protection orders can be used, but caution needs to be used as they can just relocate issues. The orders needs a level of local consultation and can be applied for 3 years, although they do take time to implement.
He advocated the use of orders in proportion to the problem, but experience shows that larger areas tend to work better so as to not just shift problems.
Acknowledged that drinking alcohol in a public space is not illegal.
Councillor Richard Cooper:
We need to make sure that we do not demonise people that need help, but he acknowledged that some are difficult or impossible to reach.
There are issues around the use of drugs and legal highs.
People need a hand-up rather than a slap in the face.
We shouldn’t confuse street drinking with homelessness. Not all homeless are street drinkers and some with a home have made a lifestyle choice to drink on the streets.
The meeting was a positive and forward looking meeting. Some of the public present still talked of specific issue that they were continuing to experience, they were noted at the meeting and not ignored.
Retaining this level of joined-up working is good for the town and also good for those in the unfortunate of needing help as it is leading to the availability of greater support.