A ‘multifaceted approach’ including working with local service users would be introduced alongside a Public Space Protection Order in Wrexham Town Centre, it was explained this week.
Last week Wrexham.com reported that Wrexham Council had launched a consultation asking the public’s views on the introduction of a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) across the town centre.
Following the launch of the consultation last week, a number of concerns were made that those that were ‘dispersed’ from the town centre would create issues in surrounding areas or that homeless people were being criminalised and would not be able to pay the fines.
The proposed PSPO would aim to tackle ‘antisocial behaviour’ in the town centre and include the introduction of dispersal orders and £100 fines.
In the examples of such behaviour the first noted is “Rough sleeping”, then “Drug abuse; and intoxication from that” and “Drinking alcohol and under the influence of such.”
If the proposed PSPO goes ahead, much of the town centre will be covered by an order – along with Capel y Groes on Powell Road, Eagles Meadow, King Street and Bellevue Park. More recently a similar Order was introduced to Rhosddu Park and Cemetery.
Speaking at Tuesday’s Town Centre Forum Meeting, PC Dave Bates said: “We are not looking at stopping people going about their lawful day to day business. We are looking at tackling those issues.
“We are not looking at going round people drinking on a Friday and Saturday evening night out, that’s not what it is about, officers will still have discretion.
“With the fines, a lot of people we might be dealing with may not be in a position to pay. We will look to dispersal orders and banning people from the town centre.
“It is not just about arresting people, it’s ‘here is your opportunity to leave this area, if you continue this is what will happen’. It’s not about fines, it’s about trying to be fair and saying you can’t behave in this manner.”
Chairman of the Town Centre Forum, Nigel Lewis said: “It’s a difficult thing. It’s dealing with the effect of the problem, not the cause. This is not a problem just particular to Wrexham.”
Earlier this week North Wales Police Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones questioned if a PSPO was the right approach to use in tackling the issue.
Mr Jones said: “Whilst I have sympathy with what the council are trying to do I am not sure a Public Space Protection Order is the way forward. To me all it seems to do is to move the problem away from the area where the services are for these people who are predominantly homeless and have a variety of problems like mental health and addictions.
“Partnership’s across North Wales receive millions of pounds a year to deal with substance abuse and we have an abundance of high level meetings to distribute these monies so I would really question whether addressing the symptoms rather than the underlying causes is the best we can do.
“Past experience has shown that fining and jailing vulnerable people does nothing to curb their behaviour or re-offending, its time for a radical rethink outside the box and looking at best practise from other areas.”
Speaking at meeting on Tuesday Lead Member for Communities and Partnerships, Hugh Jones addressed the concerns saying: “As part of the Order there is an action plan in place, we engaging with all service providers. It is a multi-faceted approach to tackle the problem and to try and work on cases of the behaviour.
“We hope some of this legislation will help us with people getting the opportunity to engage with service providers throughout a day. The other element is what we see at the moment with a number of people is they engage with a service provider at 9am and then they go somewhere else. They may end us at Ty Nos or they may end up homeless and rough sleeping.”
As part of the multi-faceted approach, several options have been looked at, including former addicts working as peer mentors to those who need help in Wrexham and the creation of a through the day provision for service users.
He added: “It’s not just a question of using legislation. It’s a question of having a plan in place which engages with service providers.
“It would be naive of me to say we are going to solve the problem. There are certain people who will not engage with service providers. It is using a number of facets in order to tackle the problem.”
Hard copies of the consultation are also available from Contact Wrexham and the Guildhall Reception on request.