The new chief inspector for Brighton & Hove made a pledge yesterday afternoon (24th May) to tackle and improve the concerns of St James’s Street residents. Scathing reports in a local newspaper have suggested the area is falling into disarray with needles, plain sight drug dealing and more. A simple walk up St James’s Street into Kemptown shows the hyperbolic nature of their reporting but there were genuine issues raised by residents, which is the basis of the Chief Inspector’s new commitment.
Chief Inspector Rachel Swinney, who is in charge of prevention and operation, said “We are working in partnership with Brighton and Hove City Council to address some of the issues – particularly around begging and the street community – and I think it’s important to recognise that we are often dealing with individuals who can be vulnerable, who often have complex and multiple needs, and we need to ensure that any police enforcement is supported by provision from a range of other services.”
The reports made could be somewhat detrimental to the local community. On one hand, increased police presence can only do good for the community but if you’re tackling the homeless crisis by vilifying and alienating people in online publications, the problem will only get worse. The Chief Inspector went on to say “our local prevention teams have been active in this area with focused patrols and I’m making sure there is a dedicated team of officers who have the specific responsibility of working with residents and are available to sit down with them and listen to their concerns.”
“I will be personally meeting with local residents and businesses to ensure that we maintain that close level of working and understanding. We will continue to work with our partners, the city council, drugs and alcohol and homeless support agencies – to look at the best solutions for the issues.”
The comments that poured in after the initial reports circulated online suggested that some people were more annoyed with the fact they were getting approached in the first place, rather than it being an increasing issue. One particularly blind comment asked how “they” got the money to litter food and beer cans. If you have a conversation with a homeless person in Brighton you will swiftly come to the understanding that they are not the issue, there is a systemic issue in the country which is struggling to deal with the increase in homelessness and the decrease in affordable housing and job opportunities. The Chief Inspector has outlined in the statement herself that the police “will be taking a robust approach to criminal activity. Aggressive begging and overt drug dealing will not be tolerated, but I also want to emphasise the importance of working with our partners to ensure that we are looking for long-term solutions.”
It is important at this point to allude back to an article we published earlier this year. An additional 200 officers will be recruited to Sussex Police after they lost 1/5 of their officers and over half of their PCSO’s, due to budget cuts, in the last seven years. Perhaps with increased police presence and additional officers on the streets, problems can be solved not just “tackled”. The issues that surround St James Street are not exclusive to Brighton and it seems as though criminal activity is in hot-spots across the city. If you see litter in that area, or anywhere, pick it up yourself if you have the time. It is on all of our shoulders as residents of the city to keep it looking nice, we can’t just rely on authorities that aren’t always there.
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