How Doncaster has worked to ‘reclaim the streets’

Police on patrol in Doncaster town centre this week
Police on patrol in Doncaster town centre this week

Increased action to deal with concerns over anti-social behaviour in Doncaster first started over a year ago – when police were handed new powers.

Since then, a series of measures have been brought in, with more still taking place behind the scenes as officials look to stop the issues returning.

homelessness on the streets of Doncaster before major action was taken. Picture: Homeless MC 10

homelessness on the streets of Doncaster before major action was taken. Picture: Homeless MC 10

Read more: Major action on spice yobs has ‘reclaimed the streets of Doncaster’ says businesses

Read more: Some beggars still there but residents ‘feel  safer’ in Doncaster town centre

Read more: Shop local plea after Doncaster town centre clear-up

Concerns were raised in 2106 when a tent city sprung up near Waterdale. It was moved by the council, amid concerns over antisocial behaviour,  with those who were there offered accommodation. Some declined the offers.

Businesses in the town centre were raising concerns about the emerging problem of antisocial behaviour, spice, and aggressive begging on the streets.

And by the end of 2017, police were given new powers to take action as a Public Space Protection Order was issued for the town centre.

The new powers, brought in in November 2017, saw 10 types of action banned in the town centre, including begging in the street, loitering around cash machines, taking drugs or drinking alcohol in the streets, congregating in big groups in a way likely to cause a nuisance, and rough sleeping in a public space.

Alongside this, teams were put together to offer health and social support to help people with complex problems to  turn their lives around after they had been picked up by officers.

Over the spring and summer, a number of people were banned from the town centre as a result of their behaviour.

But in August, concerns that the problem of spice and antisocial behaviour still persisted resulted in a public meeting at The Diamond Live Lounge, after a social media group had attracted around 10,000 people, all raising concerns.

That led to new meetings between businesses in Doncaster with police and council bosses.

Officials appealed for the public not to give direct to beggars. Police said many of those begging were not homeless.

In September, Doncaster Council announced it would be paying for police to extend the hours during which officers were patrolling the town centre, and increase the numbers patrolling. It paid for officer overtime. Police also set up a training unit for officers in the town centre, and deployed officers in the town centre as part of that training.

That was followed at the end of October with a new scheme which aimed to encourage the public to donate to a specially set-up fund to help the homeless in the borough, rather than handing money directly to street beggars.

Real Help Doncaster, was launched as an alternative to giving to beggars on the street, to provide quick help for practical items that can help people off the street. This could be money to access training courses, furnishings, travel costs or help to set up a home. Local charities and organisations will work directly with individuals to apply for funds. To donate text REAL22  £2  to 70070 ( you can change the amount and may be charged for the text message) or visit www.realhelpdoncaster.org

Work is going on to create closer working between the agencies involved in tackling the issues, as part of the multi-agency ‘complex lives’ teams. As well as health and council officials, staff from St Leger Homes and NACRO, an organisation which helps resettled people who have been in the criminal justice system, are now joining the teams, along with benefits officers and mental health workers.

Police told businesses that since the PSPO came in there have been about 200 arrests, and 100 stop and searches, plus dozens of drug arrests for spice.

Last week it was announced that council funding for the increased police presence on the town centre streets had been extended for another three months after a successful pilot scheme.

This week, businessman Dominic Gibson told officials at a business forum meeting that he thought the streets had been reclaimed following the last few months of action.

Now he thinks it is important that help is available for those affected by homelessness and his venue is hosting a pamper day for the homeless on December 5. It will see showers available as well as food and clothing and haircuts.