Tackling Leighton’s street drinkers is ‘complex’

The Market Cross area
The Market Cross area

A four-year plan to clamp down on crime in Central Beds includes street drinkers in Leighton Buzzard as one of its key priorities, the LBO can reveal.

At a meeting of Central Beds Council’s executive, councillors backed a plan which sets the direction of the Community Safety Partnership until 2019.

Street drinking

Street drinking

The partnership is comprised of CBC, Beds Fire and Rescue, Beds Police, Beds CCG and the county community rehabilitation company.

The 2016-2019 plan recognises street drinking as a “complex issue” which has a negative impact on the quality of lives of residents and businesses.

In Leighton the main problem centres around the Market Cross area, which Central Beds Council says it closely monitors from its CCTV control room in close liaison with Beds Police. Problems also exist in neighbouring Dunstable and over in Biggleswade.

A report on the partnership plan states: “In these three hotspots there are a core of street drinkers who are a mix of males and females aged 30 to 50 years.

“The majority of those who are known have housing provision so the issue in Central Beds is not necessarily linked to homelessness.

“Many of the individuals are entrenched drinkers with complex needs, from alcohol dependency, mental health, historic and current abuse, low incomes and unemployment.

“Addressing street drinking related anti-social behaviour and reducing harm to street drinkers themselves are two very different objectives.

“A number of different interventions are needed to deal with this issue, some of which will be enforcement dealing with the anti-social behaviour elements and others will be engaging and supporting the street drinkers and dealing with their individual needs.

In total, 15% of those surveyed in Central Beds said their main concern was people being drunk or rowdy in public places.

Between October 2014 and September 2015 there were 367 anti-social behaviour incidents reported to Beds Police in the district that related to street drinking.

But the report adds: “Alcohol related anti-social behaviour is not accurately recorded and it is felt that this number may not be a true reflection of the issue, and that accurate recording would raise this number.”

Nuisance bikers, child sexual exploitation and human trafficking have also been included as other priorities in the plan.

Councillor David McVicar has welcomed the strategy, saying: “(The priorities) are the things which by and large many of us as councillors are involved with on a regular basis. They are in the community, some of which are more hidden than others.

“Others are more overt like nuisance motorcycles, it is pleasing to see that they are being dealt with as a priority.”

A Bedfordshire Police spokesman said: “We take anti-social behaviour very seriously and we are working together with our partners to tackle issues such as street drinking.

“We have issued community protection notices to those responsible, which could result in a summons to court if they are breached.

“We’re dedicated to eradicating this problem and the priority anti-social behaviour team for central Bedfordshire has ongoing work to help resolve it and minimise disruption to members of the public.

“If you witness anti-social behaviour or have any concerns, please contact police on 101.”

What’s your view on the street drinking situation in Leighton? Email news@lbobserver.co.uk