This month we have been handed a petition signed by more than a thousand local people calling for more to be done to tackle rough-sleeping and anti-social behaviour in shopping areas in the Borough of Brentwood. The petition is in response to the situation of a very small number of people who sleep on the street in Brentwood and Shenfield – and an even smaller number of them who are responsible for repeated anti-social behaviour.
We want everything to be done to help people on the streets overcome their problems and move on with their lives. The Council offers support and advice on what options may be available to all those who are rough-sleeping or begging in the Borough. Local churches are brilliant in the help they offer. It is right that this help is made available and it is incumbent upon local services to seek to improve that offer of help as best they can.
However, we cannot accept repeated anti-social and aggressive behaviour by anyone using our High Streets. We cannot allow anyone to repeatedly disrupt and intimate the general public. Those behaving in an anti-social manner should be held to account. We cannot and will not ignore the strength of feeling on this issue from local people and from those who visit the town.
The Council are working with local services and charities – as well as local churches who provide exceptional support – to offer people a route out of rough sleeping. Where people have mental health, drug or alcohol problems, we understand that these need to be treated in order to help people find stability. We also understand that people sleeping rough feel vulnerable to theft and attack and look for places that offer a degree of security (such as areas with CCTV). The Council are considering all these issues as we move forward.
In addition, both Council and Police are seeking to use powers made available in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, in the form of a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO). PSPOs allow local Councils to restrict different types of behaviour which cause problems in their specific public spaces. For instance, Brentwood has a long-standing problem with nuisance vehicles in the William Hunter Way car park – the Council’s PSPO addresses this. Similarly, the PSPO can be used to combat the problem of late-night revellers urinating in shop doorways and committing other anti-social acts.
The Council’s joint approach with the police will enable them to target help to those who need it whilst also ensuring the high street is a welcoming place for all, supporting local traders and businesses. The Public Space Protection Order will focus on tackling the anti-social behaviour of a very small minority who spoil it for others and, where appropriate, take action. To be clear, this PSPO is not being used to target people simply because they are sleeping rough – it is being used to prevent the unacceptable behaviour of a few.
Essex Police have told us that for them to be able to do their job, members of the public registering complaints need to give their details and, on occasion, be prepared to give a statement. At present, very few callers give their details meaning that it is considerable harder for the police to take action. If you see something, your statement can make a difference.
We want Brentwood to continue to be a beautiful place to live, work and visit – we also want it to continue to be a town that cares. The action being taken by the Council and the Police will ensure that our area remains just such a place.
Please feel free to contact us if you wish to discuss this issue further.
Alex Burghart MP, Brentwood and Ongar firstname.lastname@example.org
Cllr Louise McKinlay, Leader, Brentwood Borough Council email@example.com