Oxford Street businesses have welcomed a crackdown on “intimidating” street drinkers with more than 100 Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) incidents reported to police since May.
Police launched ‘Operation Yeehaw’ on Monday, November 14, to combat the re-emergence of the town’s street drinking problem and threatening behaviour from groups gathering near Wesley Chapel.
Concerned businesses and members of the public had reported witnessing fights, public urination and drug use with 75 ASB incidents reported on Oxford Street in the past seven months.
A further 37 instances were reported to police on nearby Cambridge Road but just four arrests were made as a result of these instances with three prosecutions gained.
Harrogate Theatre, the Champagne Concept and Norse all previously approached the council and police to complain about the “overwhelming numbers of people meeting in this group.
David Bown, chief executive of Harrogate Theatre said the situation had turned “critical” as it was not unusual for violent fights to break out amongst the group.
He said: “We are very concerned for our patrons who have taken to walking up and down Beulah Street rather than along Oxford Street to access the theatre.
“Some nights the violence is such we have to make a judgement as to whether we lock the front doors before allowing staff and audience to leave.
“Individual members of the audience have been targeted for verbal abuse with no provocation whatsoever. The situation is quite critical and affecting business.”
In the early hours of Saturday morning, a man was charged with criminal damage after reports he “threw a bike at the doors of the theatre.
Officers were called to reports of a 37-year-old man in an agitated state on Oxford Street at 4am before he was arrested and charged with criminal damage.
The police has now promised a stronger presence to identify the group’s ring leaders and make full use of their dispersal powers.
Laurence Connolly, owner of the Champagne Concept, has welcomed this response and said the improvement as a result has been noticeable.
He said: “It wasn’t always necessarily the behaviour that was the issue, it was the scale of people gathering there. It was a few ring leaders meaning others would come here and there was a huge number of people on the street.
“It was impacting businesses and people were feeling safe, especially our staff. People definitely avoided the area but the police are now trying to break that habit.”