Further action is planned to build on the significant progress that has been made in tackling problems of anti-social behaviour in Chesterfield town centre.
It follows the second Town Centre Summit, chaired by Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa, which brings together public sector partners including Chesterfield Borough Council, Derbyshire Constabulary, Derbyshire County Council, NHS and probation services, with private sector businesses and voluntary sector partners, including homelessness charities and church groups.
The meeting was told that work has taken place under all three action areas agreed at the first meeting - which were enforcement, treatment and support, and lobbying the Government about the impact that national welfare reforms are having on the streets of Chesterfield.
Since the first meeting in July the police have run Operation Barrichello which has seen 19 people jailed, more than 75 arrests made and thousands of pounds worth of drugs taken off the streets.
Chesterfield Borough Council has also recently approved the introduction of a Public Space Protection Order for the town centre which will give the police and council enforcement officers powers to deal with a range of anti-social behaviours.
The treatment and support initiatives are focusing on providing help to deal with the underlying alcohol, drug and mental health issues that are driving a lot of the anti-social behaviour.
Work has started to identify all the support already being given so that any gaps can be found and any duplication avoided. Discussions are also taking place with the police about closer working to enable enforcement action and treatment and support services to work together so that in instances where the police cannot take action as no criminal offence has been committed then the support services can work with the individuals concerned to find solutions to the issues they face.
On behalf of the group, Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins wrote to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions telling them about the impact that welfare reforms are having on the situation. Employment minister Damian Hinds has replied setting out the Government’s position on welfare reforms. The issue will continue to be raised in Parliament as part of discussions about the roll-out of Universal Credit to replace other forms of benefit.
Hardyal Dhindsa, Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “I am really encouraged at the progress that has already been made to make Chesterfield town centre a place where residents and visitors can come to enjoy.
“We began this process to show that by bringing together a wide range of partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors we could make a real difference to what are some very complicated issues with multiple causes.
“There is still much work to do but I can already see and feel a noticeable difference on the streets and I am sure the public can too.
“The key now is to sustain this progress and then build on it, with the next real focus being on co-ordinating the treatment and support services on offer to tackle the underlying issues that often lead to anti-social behaviour.”
Councillor Tricia Gilby, leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, said: “The police have carried out significant enforcement activity in the town centre and that is clearly making a difference to the number of incidents that are happening.
“We have also approved plans for Public Space Protection Orders which will strengthen the enforcement powers that the police will have. In particular the orders will enable the police to confiscate opened and unopened alcohol from people who are causing anti-social behaviour.
“Through our homelessness team and our benefits teams we are also supporting the treatment and support element of the work to deal with some of the underlying issues that contribute to these problems in the first place.
“We will continue working with all partners to make further improvements to the town centre so that Chesterfield continues to be a great place to live in, work in and visit.”
At the latest summit meeting it was agreed that a group will look in the coming months at whether it is possible to set up an alternative giving scheme. This would enable people to donate money to support the treatment and support work of people congregating in the town centre areas as a practical alternative to begging on the streets.
The idea will only be pursued if a way can be found to directly target the money raised towards providing treatment and support for people who are congregating in Chesterfield town centre.