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Zero tolerance for the homeless? asks civic chief in Winchester
WINCHESTER civic chiefs have been asked whether they should adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ attitude towards the homeless and beggars.
City councillors tonight discussed how to tackle community safety issues such as homelessness and domestic violence.
Cllr Jan Warwick, portfolio holder for neighbourhoods and environment, asked: “Should we have a zero tolerance approach? Or do we want to make Winchester a mecca for rough sleepers? Probably not.”
The overview and scrutiny committee heard that rough sleeping in council car parks like Friarsgate and Chesil Street is a chronic problem.
Sandra Tuddenham, head of community safety and neighbourhood services, outlined the issues: “The smell of human and animal waste, needle finds, people feeling intimidated because of the bad language, shouting among themselves, some are substance dependent. Some don’t like being woken up, they can be grumpy.”
Richard Hein, parking manager, said music was being played between midnight and 6am to deter sleeping in the Friarsgate multi-storey car park.
“These are persistent people we have difficulty in moving. The music has succeeded in driving homeless people out of Friarsgate. However they have moved to other locations. It is difficult (playing music) at Chesil multi-storey because there are residents nearby.”
Ms Tuddenham said a zero tolerance approach would mean “every time we come across a homeless person we would kick them out without signposting them to support services. It would be coming down hard. Three strikes and you are going for an ASBO and injunctions rather than looking at them as individuals.”
Sgt Richard Holland, of Winchester Police, said: “Zero tolerance would clear the streets but officers would have to take people to custody and it would take officers off the streets. There’s a finite number of officers, so if they were all tied up with that then they would be doing something else.”
Robin Jarman, deputy police and crime commissioner, said: “Zero tolerance would generate a huge amount of activity but not address the cause.”
Steve Tong, from the council housing department, said it was vital to stop people getting entrenched into rough sleeping.
The Community Safety Partnership is made up of local authorities, the police, fire service, probation and the NHS. It seeks a more coordinated approach rather than each working separately on issues.
The meeting heard that there have been success stories. Chris Mitchell, of Hampshire Probation Service, said Integrated Offender Management for prolific offenders was reducing reoffending.
Mr Mitchell said the probation service will be abolished next spring to be replaced by organisations tendering for contracts. He said; “There is no evidence that will work. We will have to wait and see.”
Committee chairman Chris Pines said he knew a young Winchester man in and out of prison, with drug and mental issues and he reckoned ‘Kevin’ aged 26 has cost the taxpayer £1 million.
Sgt Holland said statistics showed that Winchester was getting safer with a drop in violence and anti-social behaviour. The police are looking to increase clear-up rates in rural areas where convictions are harder as there is less CCTV and fewer witnesses to crime.
Meanwhile the city council is earmarking £50,000 in 2014-15 towards a ‘wet shelter’ for homeless alcoholics who are banned from the Jewry Street Nightshelter if they have been drinking.
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