Nine arrests in first week after Doncaster town centre nuisance crackdown

Police have increased patrols in Doncaster town centre
Police have increased patrols in Doncaster town centre

Hundreds of people were dealt with by police and council officers in the first week of new powers to crackdown on town centre nuisance.

Officials on the streets of Doncaster were handed the new powers to deal with nuisance beggars and other antisocial behaviour under a Public Spaces Protection Order, which came into effect for the first time on Tuesday November 7

Now figures have been released which show how many times officials acted under the new powers in the first week, with councillors behind the scheme describing it as a success.

But concerns have been raised that the problem is now becoming an issue in the early mornings and in the evenings.

Doncaster Council says between them, all agencies that are involved with the scheme 'interacted' with 220 people in the first week.

South Yorkshire Police were able to provide more detailed figures from their operations.

Officers from the Doncaster central neighbourhood team engaged and signposted 34 people. They were people who were not breaching the rules, but were known to get involved in activies such as rough sleeping, who were warned about the new powers.

The also made nine arrests for various offences. Two were drugs related, one involving heroin, and the other involving spice.

Eight people were dispersed from the town centre.

And five were reported for breaching the PSPO.

Insp Lynne Lancaster, the inspector for the town centre neighbourhood team , said officers have been patrolling and using the new powers, as had council officers.

Officers from her team spend a combined 628 hours in the PSPO area, a figure which did not include time spent inside Doncaster Police Station.

She said her officers had done a lot of work in advance of the roll out of the powers to make sure vulnerable people knew the PSPO was coming into effect, and how it would impact on their behaviour.

She said: "At the end of the day, some of these people are genuinely vulnerable and need help and support to get them off the streets. But we know there are also people with home addresses who purport to be homeless to beg for money.

"As part of what we are doing, we are also looking at conditional cautions. That means that depending on circumstances, we can put a condition that people have to go to see the complex lives team, rather then getting an immediate £100 fine. The conditional caution means they have to go and and engage to sort out their issues.

"If they don't engage we will look at a breach of a fine."

The complex lives team looks to provide help for vulnerable people to help turn their lives around.

She said she had been pleased with the effect of the new powers so far, having seen an apparent reduction in the number of people begging on the street, and having seen positive comments on social media.

She added: "It's been a really good start. But we will be having weekly multi-agency meetings each week to make sure that the problem is not just being dispersed out of town."

Coun Rachael Blake, Doncaster Council's cabinet member for adult social care, said: “The Public Spaces Protection Order we implemented in the town centre last week is already proving a success.

"Together with our partners we have already interacted with over 220 people, some of which have complexities and our support agencies have quickly become involved to provide the necessary support.

"This means these people in need have been advised about the PSPO being implemented and offered help and support via a number of agencies to help them break the cycle they are currently in.

“We have never claimed that the PSPO will be a quick fix and we are committed to provide the help and support that people need. This is a good start and shows what we can when we all work together.”

Coun Chris McGuinness, cabinet member for communities, added: “The initial feedback we have received from businesses in the town centre has been that they are starting to see the impact the PSPO is having in the town centre. We are committed to helping those who need it, however, we will take action against the small minority of people who continue to behave in an anti-social manner.”

Mixed reaction

Reaction to the effect of the new powers among traders at Doncaster market were mixed.

There was agreement that there is less nuisance and aggressive begging during the day - but concern over the position in the early mornings and the evenings.

Nigel Berry, who runs a fish stall, thought matters had improved.

He said: "It is probably early days, but it does seem to be better already, both over the weekend and during the week.

"There may still be the odd one, but I do think it's had an impact from what I've seen so far."

Jason Brown, who also works on stalls in the market, said he thought there was still an issue early in the morning and late in the evening.

He said: "I walked past McDonalds before 5.30am and there were people nearby asking for change. I think they may be starting earlier. I also saw it on Saturday night, outside one of the pubs. But it does seem to have made a difference during the daytime."

Another market trader. Wendy Hunter, added: "I think there has been an improvement, but it has not solved it. I there is still an issue early morning and late afternoon, perhaps before 8am and after 4pm.

New powers

The new PSPO bans:

*Begging on the street

*Loitering around cash machines

*Returning to the town centre within 24 hours of being asked to leave by police for antisocial behaviour

*Congregating in large groups behaving anti-socially

*Drinking alcohol in the street

*Taking drugs or possessing drugs paraphernalia

*Urinating or defecating on the street

*Camping or sleeping outside

*Trying to sign people up for charity payments without council permission

*Trying to interfere with parking equipment, in the town centre