SPECIAL REPORT: Harrogate town partnership is monitoring the street drinking situation

Harrogate town centre PCSO Dan Smyth outside one of the street drinking "hotspots". Picture:Adrian Murray(1602024AM2).
Harrogate town centre PCSO Dan Smyth outside one of the street drinking "hotspots". Picture:Adrian Murray(1602024AM2).

In a special Harrogate Advertiser report, the town partnership, that was set up to tackle street drinking, reveals how it has stepped-up its battle against the growing problem.

What has happened?

In the last meeting the public identified to us the problems they saw within Harrogate town centre. The people that attended that meeting were business owners, residents, concerned members of the community and councillors or other persons in an official capacity.

The problems identified showed that there was a difference between the daytime economy street drinking and antisocial behaviour by comparison to the night time economy drinking from licensed premises and the antisocial behaviour that brought about. This report focuses on the daytime economy.

We recognise that the problems are at their worst during the spring/summer months and that at this time of year we will need to be most active in working to address them. We fully understand that a large part of the decline will be due to the inclement weather conditions and not solely due to the work we are doing. We still need the public to report to us when and where they see the issues, otherwise we may mistakenly believe that the problem is resolved prematurely. We know it can take time and effort to call us and understand the frustrations involved but we will keep trying to work with you in making Harrogate an even better place.

Who are we?

The partnership is often referred to and is made up of a lot of different statutory bodies and the departments within them. Police, borough council. NHS and county council to name a few. Not all have been involved in the problem solving approach but some have either through the whole process or part of it. We also work with non-statutory groups/bodies such as Harrogate Homeless Project, social housing groups and private companies too.

Our members include:

l Sergeant Ed Rogerson - Harrogate Safer Neighbourhood Team

l Julia Stack - Community safety and CCTV manager - Harrogate Borough Council

l Mel Greaves - Anti-social Behaviour Co-ordinator - Harrogate Borough Council

l PC Graham Frostick - Harrogate Safer Neighbourhood Team - Town Centre

What have we been doing?

The partnership has held weekly meetings to start to address the problems. Further investigation was needed to have a complete understanding of the trends and what was happening. To that end a meeting was organised with individuals who were identified as regular street drinkers in an effort to better understand the culture and reasons behind it.

Furthermore two surveys were created to establish the scope of the problems from the perspective of the town centre retailers and to establish an understanding of the availability and sales of alcohol and the type and strengths most sold.

In each meeting specific individuals were spoke about with a view to identifying their needs and the most appropriate person/body/project etc to assist them. This is an ongoing process and doesn’t’ just involve support but will identify offending activities and the appropriate actions to take against individuals or groups where enforcement is required.

An environmental concern in relation to specific buildings and areas where the antisocial behaviour is most frequently reported or experienced is a large part in the model for problem solving. An example of immediate work can be sein in Woodbine Terrace. The corringa and Friends Cafe organised a meeting with a local resident, themselves and the landowner in response to the problems in the area.

The cut through form Bower Street to Woodbine Terrace was identified as a thoroughfare for transient street drinking and for antisocial street gatherings. After health and safety and legal consultations the landowner took responsibility and erected a secure gate to prevent access across private land. Here are other areas where the buildings or land are a factor in dealing with the issues and as such are being progresses. At the extreme end of the process with private landowners, a Community Protection Notice, which levies a fine against any company who doesn’t address problems they are responsible for can be applied through the borough council.

Engagement with individuals causing anti-social or crime is an important part of the process. Whether this is to enforce legislation through the police or to simply have a conversation about their behaviour and explaining the problem they are causing by outreach work such as is being complete by Harrogate Homeless Project and the No Second Night Out scheme. A bid by the project to the Police and Crime Commissioners Fund was successful and they have been granted £20,000 towards their No Second Night Out scheme which aims to identify rough sleepers in the harrogate area and help them. Liz Hancock and members of her team have been called upon and have reacted to calls by local businesses to speak with street drinkers and rough sleepers causing a nuisance. This is a low level approach where criminality has not been an issue or simply where a person has been found rough sleeping in a doorway that causes a business a problem for access etc but does have an important role in identification, information gathering, supporting both business and individuals and challenging the issues.

Police have started to use powers of dispersal to greater effect and more frequently to address individuals or groups who cause an issue, have been causing an issue or where a police officer believes the will cause an issue they can ask the inspector to grant them power to disperse that person/group from a location for up to 48 hours.

What will we do now?

When the weather improves we will already be in a strong position to tackle the expected d re-emergence of the issue. Multi-agency meetings will continue to address the problem and we will continue to offer support to those people who need it.

On cases where anti-social behavior from individuals continues, we will keep using our stages approach with them and use legislation to control their behaviour and prosecute them where appropriate.

We are setting up Acceptable Behaviour Contracts with some of the people involved and we have already started the process of applying for a Criminal Behaviour order for one of the worst offenders.

Since the last public meeting the police dispersal power is being used more than ever before in Harrogate and this will continue. Police officers and PCSOS will continue to incorporate the problem areas in their patrol plans.

The Harrogate Homeless Project are researching models using in other areas to tackle similar issues and intend to make a bid to the PCC for funding for a dedicated outreach worker.

We have identified possible diversionary activities for those people involved and will try to get them to engage positively.

The council will consult on the possibility of using a Public Spaces Protection Order in relation to this issue and others.