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| October 23, 2018

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Proactive Policing: What’s the Truth About St James’s Street?

Proactive Policing: What’s the Truth About St James’s Street?
Georgia Kolakowski

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.

If you have an opinion or comment to make on the St James Street situation or something related to this article please email georgia@bjournal.co as we would like to hear your voice. 

Comments

  1. Since the police patrols increased, it’s been a (relative) delight. I am worried that this is a flash in the pan as traders and residents had come to the end of their tether and got Katie Bourne involved. True to her word, she asked senior police to ensure a greater presence, which they have. No-one wishes to confuse homelessness with begging and antisocial behaviour and no-one should have to wake up to needles on their doorstep or human excrement. Before this many agencies had tried working with people begging to no avail. As many of us are aware, people were not begging for food.

  2. Louise

    What I would say about the ‘hyperbolic’ nature of the reporting, is that the recent media interest took hold just after the police conducted a series of plain-clothed sweeps of the area. Since then it’s been unusually peaceful which has been a great respite. We are only concerned that this is maintained.
    The vast majority of residents here are aware of, and sympathetic to, the vulnerability of those living in hostels nearby (the actual rough sleepers are rare and not the problem). But the escalation in intimidating scammers, aggressive hassling for money and drunken/drug fuelled fights have been the problem. As neighbours, it got to the sorry stage where we’re so used to ignoring shouting at night that we were late to realise some poor student was getting violently mugged for his money and only belatedly came to his aid.
    As to the drug dealing – either legalise drugs and get rid of it or deal with the criminality it creates. The fact that dealing had become so blatant just added to the feeling that St James’ had been left to its own devices. The dealers don’t put themselves out – they wait till there’s a large enough group wanting their fixes before they turn up. A few weeks ago I saw a little old bloke with a zimmer negotiate his way past a large group of strung-out, drunk, arguing awaiting ‘clients’ who had congregated on the steps and pavement outside his flat. They didn’t hassle him to his face, but he must have felt intimidated.
    So yes, the concerns are genuine but the police sweep and their recent presence has made an amazing difference. We are grateful. Although Kemptown’s respite is no doubt another area’s ASB escalation.

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