POLICE in Worcester have pledged to crack down on anti-social behaviour and problem drinking with the launch of a new operation this week.
Our reporter Jonny Bonell went out on the streets of the city to find out more.
FROM Monday (October 21), plans were put in place to set extra patrols to tackle street drinking, aggressive begging and other related behaviour in the city.
Officers and PCSOs will conduct dedicated patrols as part of Operation Spartacus, ending on November 16, to identify those involved and will look to divert them away from such behaviour.
The operation, which sees 15 officers and PCSOs working closely with partner agencies, is hoping to cut down the amount of street drinkers and aggressive beggars in time for the Victorian Fair and the Christmas Market.
PC Alex Denny, covering the Cathedral Ward, said: “Drinking and aggressive begging doesn’t just impact on the life and health of those doing it, but also the general public that see it going on.
“There is a small minority of people that cause a negative impact on the local community, and over the next few weeks we are hoping to make their activities less evasive.
“You see these people getting into fights with each other, getting verbally abusive, urinating in public. It’s all low level stuff, but stuff that, if you were young, on your own, or with young children, you don’t want to see.
“Additional support will be out on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings as you get a lot of beggars that sit by the cash machines at the weekends asking for money, hoping to take advantage of the drunk people being more generous.
“If they don’t want to engage or they don’t want to co-operate then we will bring enforcement in or put them before the courts.”
Patrols take place from Monday to Saturday (8am to 2pm) and will be a big relief for business and traders within the city, many of whom suffer personally because of this.
Michael, a Big Issue seller, said: “It stops the public buying the Big Issue off me if they see these people around.
“One day it affected my business that badly, I couldn’t afford to eat anything until the next evening.
“I have been threatened with syringes and various weapons. I am intimidated daily by these kind of people, it could be twenty past seven in the morning and people are drinking in the streets.”
Business owners in Lowesmoor, an area police are specifically targeting, say they continually have problems with drinkers and things have got so bad for some they have considered leaving the area altogether.
Richard Greenway, of Greenway Landscape Architects, said: “I have had my car vandalised four times by these people, had my door kicked in.
“They are sleeping under the stairs that lead up to the door, and when you ask them to move on you get a torrent of abuse.
“I have concerns about my daughters or my clients visiting, we don’t want people being put under that sort of abuse, it’s beyond a point that’s acceptable.
“I have been in conversation with the guy next door to me, and he has shut up shop and moved to Cheltenham because of it.
“I am Worcester born and bred and want to tough it out, but I am seriously giving it thought whether to sign a contract to stay here next year.”
Sharon Lumsden, 41, owner of Belle Fleur, suffers from the same problems.
“Personally it’s quite frightening sometimes,” she said.
“I have had a load of incidents with these people, they have smashed their heads against the window, had things stolen inside and out of the shop and had car windows broken outside.
“They are here on a regular basis, outside the front of the shop, and obviously it’s a concern.
“We are girls working here on our own and it’s quite scary, I have thought about shutting the shop quite a few times.”
After the sobering words of those directly affected by these on-goings, Police were keen to stress that there are people in this situation through no fault of their own and it is a minority causing the issues.
PC Denny said: “We do realise there are some people in this situation who are genuinely vulnerable and we are keen not to miss poor people that are genuinely homeless.
“The idea is we can engage with the people out there and try and get them the help they need. We want to support these people but if the offences continue we will put them before the courts.”
Operation Spartacus will be working closely with partner agencies in the city, including Maggs Day Centre, Pathways, St Paul’s Hostel and Samaritans.
Picture: Richard Greenway shows where homeless people sleep under his office. Photo by Jonny Bonell.