Police consider injunctions to crack down on street drinking and begging in Bury St Edmunds
Police are considering the use of injunctions to crack down on street drinking and begging – an issue which has blighted Bury St Edmunds town centre this summer.
Officers have seen an increase in the problem and business leader Mark Cordell says the individuals responsible have become ‘more brazen in targeting other vulnerable people’ and are deterring town centre visitors .
Despite arrests, the issue has continued and police are exploring with West Suffolk Council implementing anti-social behaviour civil injunctions. Those who breach such injunctions can face fines and jail time.
It follows a meeting between Mr Cordell, who is chief executive of Business Improvement District Our Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk Police, the council and the town’s MP Jo Churchill.
Mr Cordell said the negative impact of street drinkers and begging has been ‘considerable’ this summer and he was concerned that the ‘situation is far from resolved’.
“There have been numerous arrests over the past few weeks but because so few of these individuals want to engage with the authorities and accept their offers of help, what frequently occurs is that after release they are back on the streets continuing their anti-social behaviour,” he said.
“In addition there are concerns that the current judicial system is not dealing with the offenders seriously enough to deter their repeat offending.”
He added they would work with those who were ‘willing to address their problems but deal robustly with those that aren’t’.
Superintendent Kim Warner said it was ‘clear some of the behaviour from a small minority of people is entirely unacceptable and must stop’.
Supt Warner said they were ‘using all available legislative powers to stop anti-social behaviour’ with five criminal behaviour orders in place and another two pending court hearings.
Sixteen community protection notices have been issued and a further four people served with community protection notice warning letters.
“In the longer term we are exploring with West Suffolk Council the use of ASB civil injunctions as an alternative means to dissuade anti-social behaviour, and we will, of course, arrest where criminal acts are committed,” he said.
Supt Warner noted that it was ‘not a solely police related issue’ and they were working with partners to identify ‘long term sustainable solutions such as substance misuse support, temporary or permanent accommodation, and access to healthcare’.
He added: “We have seen a slight increase in street drinking and begging in the town, and it may be that this is linked to the generosity of local people providing cash to people who are or claim to be homeless.
“Whilst I appreciate that this is done for benevolent reasons what I would ask is that people don’t donate their pocket change directly to the homeless community, but instead donate to known local charities, because that way you can be sure that the funds are spent wisely, and not on drugs or alcohol, which is often the case.”
Cllr Robert Everitt, West Suffolk Council cabinet member for communities, said they worked alongside the police using all the anti-social behaviour powers they had put in place.
“These powers penalise anti-social behaviour but the individuals need to engage with the services they are offered to address the root causes, which are often drug and alcohol issues,” he said.
“We are looking with the police at how these positive behaviours can also be enforced, for a longer term solution.”
Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds, said breaking the cycle of addiction was ‘crucial to help combat the current unacceptable situation’ but it required a multi-agency approach.
“For our town to stay special undoubtedly we need to look after each other but that is incumbent on all of us, no one group has the right to harass another,” she said.