A top Doncaster police chief has said a mixture of ‘overtime’ and ‘student officers’ will provide extra patrols in the town centre.
Doncaster Council announced last week they had paid for two officers to carry out police duties between 7am and 10pm in the wake over growing anger of anti-social behaviour, aggressive begging and drug abuse.
Council bosses have not yet said how much this has cost.
Chief Inspector Jayne Forrest has said no neighbourhood police units in communities outside of the town centre will be pulled in to provide the extra cover.
She added the issue is now the ‘number one priority’ for police in Doncaster and a team had been assigned to focus on dealers selling Spice with some coming as far as Hull to sell the drug.
Chf Insp Forest also said around 40 people have refused support and continue to live a ‘criminal lifestyle’.
New figures show in the last 12 months, 114 people in the town centre have been identified with issues such as drug addiction, begging and homelessness and criminality.
Some 60 people have accepted help from drug services and/or have been placed into accommodation. A further 10 have been jailed for a variety of different offences while 39 have refused all help.
“Issues in the town centre always been a high priority ever since we got the Public Space Protection Order in November last year – recent events have really focused our attention in order to demonstrate we respond to public views,” Chf Insp Forest said.
“I was concerned about the level of worry and concern people were displaying and for me, it was about taking the temperature of the town centre and I didn’t like it.
“This was why we swiftly responded and was resolute that we have a strong, cohesive plan. I do think we’ve turned the tide of opinion already.
“I want to reiterate that all of this has come about from what people have said and we’ve acted.
I don’t think we’re seeing anything other than the perfect storm that is nationally occurring but it’s just locally in Doncaster and the tightness of the town centre probably feels worse.”
Residents and business owners say they have been plagued by rough sleepers on Spice and called on the authorities to take action.
One problem police forces up and down the country has found is defendants being punished with fines which they can’t pay.
“We’re trying to put a strong plan together to actually break that cycle rather than watch it rotate again,” Chf Insp Forest said.
“Homeless people are forced to pay to pay the court fines and then can’t and then they enter the system again.
“We’re coming at it from a different way – what we’re doing now with others is all about intervention and support.
“If we come across a person now, if they say they’re addicted to Spice then we direct them to Aspire (drug and alcohol services) if they’re on the streets then we direct them to St Leger Homes.
“Ultimately, this brings us down to a cohort of people who won’t engage with us and are refusing treatment and help – in turn they’re choosing this criminal lifestyle and that’s what makes enforcement much harder.”
An officer who attended a recent public meeting said there was some frustration from officers at the courts and the level of sentence passed to defendants.
But Chf Insp Forest said she wanted to focus on issues she can change.
“I’m finding that prison sentences are given out but for committing a shoplifting isn’t 10 years inside.
“I try and influence what I can change and not get hung up on what I can’t. We do have the conversation with the CPS and they do understand a local issue coming through the courts.
“I find them very supportive but if you in the grips of addiction or homeless, there’s no point of sitting them up before a court because we’re just setting the whole plan up to fail.”
Doncaster Council made a surprise announcement it was paying for two extra officers to patrol the town centre. The Doncaster police chief explained how it will work.
“The scheme is a mixture of overtime and we’re deploying out student officers differently,” she said.
“We used to put them on the response teams but what we’re now doing is putting them in a tutor unit and they’re learning the job on foot visible in town centre.
“It’s a combination of reconfiguring the resources we do have but no neighbourhood police officers will be taken away from communities.”