Council squad to target aggressive beggars and rogue cyclists

street_scene11:23 Wednesday 9th December 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Yesterday on the show we were asking whether the targeting of cyclists on Bridge Street in Peterborough or beggars in the city centre was the best way to tackle anti-social behaviour. Peterborough City Council is starting a scheme which involves council workers being given law enforcement powers from April next year. They’ll have staff on the streets tasked with cracking down on many types of bad behaviour. Well after the show yesterday I spoke to Robin Sissons, the Chief Inspector for the Safer Peterborough Partnership. He’s in charge of this new safety enforcement team. And I started by asking why the city needed to tackle beggars and cyclists. This is what he had to say.
ROBIN SISSONS: If the community feel that an issue is really really important to them then we, as a service, should be tackling those issues that make them feel unsafe.
PAUL STAINTON: Well the police say it’s unenforceable, this ban, and that nobody has ever been injured in the last five years because of a cyclist, so what’s the point?

ROBIN SISSONS:  The whole point is that people, pedestrians and people that come to the city, were complaining about the number of cyclists on the Bridge Street pavements etcetera. The whole purpose of this team will be that at the moment it’s just the police officers that can enforce that. And the new team will be able, will have an additional number of staff that will be able to tackle this.
PAUL STAINTON:  But they say they can’t enforce it. They can’t enforce that because it’s unenforceable. They support the lifting of it according to this letter.
ROBIN SISSONS:  The letter was written three, four months ago, and it was all about just the police. It was from the police sergeant. He was very very passionate about the city and he was feeling frustrated that it wasn’t one of the things that his team could tackle on their own.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes so it’s a waste of our time basically to paraphrase him.
ROBIN SISSONS: So basically what we’re doing is we’re increasing our family of Partnership enforcement officers to support them.
PAUL STAINTON: I get that, but if the police are wasting their time, surely this will be a waste of your time.
ROBIN SISSONS: I don’t think it is a waste of our time. If the community is saying that they feel unsafe, then the purpose of the Partnership, Safer Peterborough Partnership, the purpose of the constabulary is to make people feel safe. And that for me is a mandate to enforce these things.
PAUL STAINTON: You’ve set some ground rules here on who you’re going to tackle, and who you’re going to be giving tickets to. Because I can’t see how you can stop a cyclist going through Bridge Street anyway. Because you can’t arrest them can you? You’ve not got those powers. You’re going to be trying to pin tickets on them, are you?
ROBIN SISSONS:  Basically can I just confirm that the team is for the whole of Peterborough city. It’s for the whole district, so it won’t be just focused …
PAUL STAINTON: No I get that. I know you’re going to be in Millfield as well and all that sort of work. But how are you going to stop people cycling through the city is what I ask.
ROBIN SISSONS: Basically we’ve got a number of initiatives. Because it’s not all about enforcement. It’s not all about tickets. It’s about education as well.
PAUL STAINTON:  It’s not about money-making then?
ROBIN SISSONS:  Absolutely not. No. What we’re trying to do is change the community and their behaviours by highlighting issues that make people feel unsafe, and then just a lot of the time people will be doing actions that they don’t realise have an impact on others. So actually there’s a lot of work that can be done by educating first of all right through the schools. So we’ve got police officers in all the schools in Peterborough. We do road safety and cycle proficiency. It all starts really young.  And then as it goes through we can carry on with the educational message. And there will be people that just decide to ignore  that and ride recklessly through the city, in which case they deserve a ticket.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. It’s just how are you going to give them one?
ROBIN SISSONS: Well basically the ticket is the last resort. There’s so many actions that we need to do before that.
PAUL STAINTON:  You’ll not be able to give them one, will you? If they don’t stop  you can’t give them a ticket, can you? And you can’t arrest them, so it’s a waste of time, isn’t it?
ROBIN SISSONS:  If we don’t do any actions at all then obviously people will say that this is the thin end of the wedge so to speak. And therefore we need to tackle things that make people feel unsafe.
PAUL STAINTON:  And I would think that people listening to this will say look, if you’re going to tackle illegal parking, brilliant. Street drinking, yes. Great. Fly-tipping, brilliant. Cycling, not so sure from people have said on our show. And a lot of people worried that you might be targeting homeless people as well.
ROBIN SISSONS:  The issue of homelessness is an interesting one, because people often get confused with homelessness and begging.
PAUL STAINTON: The two can go together though can’t they Robin?
ROBIN SISSONS: Absolutely, but there’s also a lot of people that are begging that aren’t homeless So every fortnight we do late night patrols throughout the night where the homeless teams and the police work side-by-side. We go and find the areas where we’ve had people reported as sleeping rough, and we engage with them, offer them support. And a lot of the time this is taken up. But every  street beggar that’s out in the Peterborough streets will have been already engaged with the homelessness team, so that we can make sure that they are supported, they’re aware of all their rights.
PAUL STAINTON: What I’m trying to get to is if I’m homeless and I’m desperate and I’m cold and I’ve got nowhere to live, and I’m asking people for a few pennies, are y ou going to ticket me?
ROBIN SISSONS:  Basically what we’re doing is making sure that you’re safe, by giving you the options of going into night shelters, making sure you get all your benefits you’re entitled to, you’re aware of all the support groups that are out there. We’ve got teams of volunteers as well where we can get some food etcetera. That for us is more important than giving tickets.
PAUL STAINTON: So there’ll be a common sense approach.
ROBIN SISSONS: Absolutely. But having said all that, when you have been given all those things but you continue to do aggressive begging tactics, it is against the law to do that. And other members of the community find that unsafe, and they feel intimidated by that, in which case if you have been given all those support mechanisms and refuse to do that, and you carry on with the aggressive begging, then unfortunately you may find yourself being challenged by a police officer.
PAUL STAINTON: So it’s a last resort.
ROBIN SISSONS: Absolutely.
PAUL STAINTON: That’s Robin Sissons who spoke to me after the show yesterday. He’s the Chief Inspector for the Safer Peterborough partnership, who will be in charge of this safety enforcement team, who will be on the streets of Peterborough from April next year.