THE BIG DEBATE: How do we tackle the issue of people drinking on the streets?
A Designated Public Place Order (DPPO) has been in place in and around Lincoln city centre since November 2011. A DPPO does not ban drinking alcohol in public, but gives police officers the power to ask an individual to stop drinking if they are causing a nuisance or annoyance, with an offence being committed if a person refuses to do so. But, is this the best way to tackle the problem?
Inspector Mark Garthwaite says legislation is reducing anti-social behaviour in Lincoln
The legislation we use in Lincoln to tackle the problem of street drinkers allows us to deal with the people that the public wants us to deal with.
If the weather was warm enough for a couple to share a bottle of wine in the park in St Mark’s on St Valentine’s Day, we wouldn’t have a problem with that.
But we would intervene where someone has bought a can of strong lager from a shop, staggers down the road and urinates in a doorway.
Section 12 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 allows councils, with evidence provided by police, to justify a Designated Public Places Order.
That means we and the council believe there are issues around alcohol-related crime and disorder in particular areas which need an order to control them.
It gives police officers and PCSOs powers to require people to stop drinking and confiscate alcohol or alcohol in containers in public places.
This allows us as an organisation to use it as a preventative tool which is very effective in reducing crime and disorder.
If we think someone has been, is or is likely to engage in anti-social behaviour connected to alcohol, we can require them to stop drinking and hand over what they have.
That includes anything that is unopened, or hidden in a can of Coke, for example.
If they don’t then they commit an offence of failing to comply with the requirement.
Failure could see a £50 fixed penalty notice and they could also be dealt with in court.
There’s a widely held misconception of DPPO that it’s a complete drinking ban.
It’s only an offence to consume alcohol in a DPPO areas if you have been required not to.
We can use other legislation, Section 27 of the Violent Crime and Reduction Act 2006, to order people to leave an area.
We have powers which we can use during the day to deal with drink issues.
Also, we can use them during the evening if someone has left a pub and is walking along with a bottle of beer in their hand.
We are asking off licences to stop selling super strength alcohol.
Primarily it’s a health issue.
One can of super strength lager that’s 8 or 9 per cent ABV will take you over the daily recommended alcohol intake straight away.
Do we have the right tools to do the job?
Yes, I think we do.
I would not support DPPO if I did not think we needed it. It is one of many, many pieces of legislation we have which enables us to do our job.
It does work. We have seen a fall in anti-social behaviour through street drinking.
Reverend Jeremy Cullimore believes street drinkers need help and support more than legislation
The solution to the problem of street drinking is to address the cause, not the symptom.
Four years ago the area around St Mary le Wigford, in the heart of the city, was notorious for rough sleepers and street drinking.
It was damaged by a fire they started and the debris of their drinking was an eyesore.
Our response was to open the doors and let them in, find out what led them to become street drinkers and what it was that excluded and marginalised them in society.
The majority wanted to improve their position, but they lacked the support necessary to get out of the rut they were in.
BeAttitude was created as a community where marginalised and excluded people can find just such support. Police statistics show how effective we have been in reducing street drinking in our area.
By working to create effective relationships with The Nomad Trust, Framework’s Outreach Team, city officers and agencies like DART and Addaction, we have collectively helped hundreds out of the lifestyle that leads to street drinking.
I will give two recent examples. Firstly, a skilled, local man who became an alcoholic and lost his job after a family tragedy. BeAttitude’s Support Team spent weeks gaining his trust, arranged for him to spend a long time at a detox and rehab charity and are working with Framework and Nomad to arrange suitable accommodation so that he can continue to progress.
Secondly, a migrant worker who failed to get work and turned to alcohol. With no access to public funds he was arrested more than 80 times in less than two years.
Criminal Justice has no alternative when fines did not work and he ended up in prison with all the costs of probation afterwards as well.
BeAttitude’s Support Team persuaded him to return home where he can get effective help and Framework’s Outreach Team made this possible.
I am a strong supporter of the Designated Public Places Order because it gives the police and PCSOs the powers to deal with street drinkers cost effectively.
It allow fines, but it also allows a PCSO to pour a can of beer away, which will be a much more effective and immediate deterrent than any fine and avoid the huge cost to society.
To issue a fine there must be an arrest, paperwork, time at the magistrates’ court and the administration of the fine.
This must add up to a significant amount of money, I will guess at well over £1,000. The fine will be nowhere near this so it will cost society to impose a fine and society should expect to see a result.
Alas, a fine seldom deters repeat behaviour. At best it will move the problem from the public areas in the city centre, which have better police coverage, into the areas like parks where families, children and old people take their recreation.
The persistent street drinker does choose this career, problems in their lives give few alternatives and they are likely to be on benefits so the fine is less likely to be paid and cost more to administer especially if they are re-arrested for non payment.
Two thousand years ago Jesus said: “Love your neighbour as yourself”. It is still the best way of solving problems in society. Issuing fines treats the street drinker as the problem and so offers no pathway back into society and is no solution.
Treating the street drinker with respect, as an individual who has lost their way and supporting them back into society, does.