Bringing different agencies together to support individuals is the best approach to tackling street drinking and anti-social behaviour in Hastings, the town centre manager has said.
John Bownas’ comments came after business owners raised concerns about issues in Carlisle Parade and Robertson Terrace on the seafront – such as people drinking in the shelters and gardens, people fighting, urinating in doorways, dog fouling, evidence of drug use and bad language.
Mr Bownas agreed it was a problem for the business owners, many of whom run hotels or guest houses, and said: “If you are the guest in a hotel and you open the door and see it, you may not want to come back.
“It may make you feel threatened and uncomfortable.
“Business confidence is not where it should be for this reason.”
He said the best way to deal with the situation was by taking a multi-agency approach, which would involve participation from organisations including the police, charities working with the homeless or people with addictions, and the council.
Members of the street community often had complex issues, he said, such as mental health problems, and these varied greatly from person to person.
He said: “There’s no one, easy, fix-it-all solution. Everyone is different.”
Agencies should work with individuals to address their needs, rather than simply moving street drinkers elsewhere or fining them, he said, adding: “If all you do is enforce, all you do is displace.
“That’s why its better to support people.”
Discussions are taking place for a meeting with various statutory and voluntary sector groups, he said, which he hopes will take place in mid-July.
Mr Bownas said the complaints from business owners in Carlisle Parade and Robertson Terrace had helped ‘nudge things along’ and ‘catalysed things a bit’.
Colin Fitzgerald, lead councillor for environmental services, has also agreed that a multi-agency response is required to tackle the issues raised.
He said: “Hastings Borough Council has been recognised for such work by the police and crime commissioner previously and we will endeavour to continue work to bring agencies together going forwards to find mutually acceptable solutions.”
Other measures to boost business confidence that have recently been taken include making it free for anyone currently paying into the Business Improvement District levy to join Business Watch, Mr Bownas said.
The scheme, which encompasses Shopwatch and Barwatch and has been running for around 14 years, is a way of local businesses working together to reduce crime.
It includes access to technologies such as a radio network and a database of around 400 people in Hastings and the area that are known to be shoplifters, violent offenders or knife carriers.
While this has most commonly been used to identify and ban shoplifters from businesses, Mr Bownas said it was a useful tool with which to log any incidents related to the street community.
Even if no criminal behaviour was taking place, using the database to make a quick report could help build up a detailed picture which would then help agencies come up with solutions, he said.
Going forward, Mr Bownas urged businesses to come to him with any issues and said: “By businesses being vocal, that really helps us.”
Business owners can also join the board of the Business Improvement District, find out more here.