Case Studies

PSPO choice, CSAS patrols in Poole

by Mark Rowe

The summer’s easing of lockdown as imposed in the spring, the re-opening of town and city centres and hospitality; and as the significant increases in visitor numbers to beaches, highlighted the clear need for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council and Dorset Police to have sufficient powers to manage anti-social behaviour, low level crime and public order. So says Bournemouth council, which is presenting a report to cabinet on September 9 calling for what it terms a consistent and balanced approach to tackling street-based anti-social behaviour across the three coastal towns.

The report recommends changing the Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in place for Poole Town Centre and Holes Bay, to only restrict drinking alcohol in public, while behaving in an anti-social manner; possession, supply or use of intoxicating substances; and behaviour which causes harassment, alarm or distress. That is, the council proposes to cut out the part of the PSPO that criminalises rough sleepers, namely sitting or loitering in a public place with a receptacle used to contain monies from the public; leaving unattended personal belongings such as bedding or bags; and causing an obstruction in shop doorways, or car park or public area such as hallways, and stair wells.

Meanwhile an Overview and Scrutiny Board, a committee of councillors that scrutinises cabinet proposals and policy, has voted to recommend that no changes should be made to the Poole PSPO (inherited from the previous Poole borough council). Also on the table is extending the Poole PSPO to Bournemouth and Christchurch for what the council suggests would be a consistent approach.

Similarly, the report to councillors notes that a public consultation about the PSPO found views ‘were finely balanced’. As in other towns, while some felt ‘intimidated by the presence and behaviour of rough sleepers and beggars’ – whether genuinely begging because in need or not; others deplored that a PSPO could criminalise people for being homeless, and wished for ‘a more humane and compassionate approach’, because (as the report to councillors noted) rough sleepers may have ‘addiction and mental health issues’.

The council points to success by using patrolling CSAS (Community Safety Accreditation Scheme) officers in Poole town centre, to ‘engage with’ those causing anti-social behaviour, which has led to referrals to support services. The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government junior minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Gloucestershire MP Luke Hall visited BCP Council on Friday, August 28 to hear about the area’s use of assessment hubs within local hotels for those sleeping rough during lockdown. 

CSAS patrols have been in Bournemouth town centre since 2018, after first used in the area in Boscombe. In April, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chief Constable of Dorset James Vaughan extended the previously specified geographic CSAS areas to the whole of the council area.

Consultation on the PSPO as required by law (the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014) ran in July and August; as PSPOs need to be reviewed every three years.

As for demands on police, August showed 999 call demand remained at record levels with some 2,683 999 calls received by Dorset Police in the week to Sunday, August 23. This was up six per cent on what was a previous record period in 2019.

Separately, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Dorset Martyn Underhill ran a survey on residents’ experiences of anti social behaviour, that closed on August 28.

Comment

Vikki Slade, Leader of the council, said: “BCP Council is committed to reducing rough sleeping by increasing access to suitable accommodation and re-modelling a range of sustainable housing support pathways. 

“The recommendation in the report to Cabinet is to remove clauses which enable the issuing of fines to people begging and leaving belongings unattended, as this is not consistent with our priority to ensure we support the most vulnerable people in our communities. The report evidences the much detailed consideration and effort that has gone in to devising effective solutions to what is a complex issue, which seeks a reduction of harmful behaviours that impact negatively on the wider community, whilst placing the needs of vulnerable people at the heart of this approach. The report recommends a PSPO across the whole area that focuses on anti-social behaviours that have been causing distress and alarm to residents, whilst ensuring that the homeless are not targeted.

“The Overview and Scrutiny Board recommends to Cabinet that no changes should be made to an existing Poole Town Centre and Holes Bay PSPO and that its existing clauses be included as part of the BCP area wide Public Spaces Protection Order consultation. Cabinet will be considering the recommendations both within the report and from the Overview and Scrutiny Board.”

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