Peterborough Blighted by Street Drinkers

08:21 Tuesday 19th July 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

Residents in Fletton say proposed non-drinking zones don’t work, and the Designated Public Place Order shouldn’t be extended. Fletton was one of the first places in Peterborough to get one of these DPPOs, but people living there say it hasn’t really helped. The Safer Peterborough Partnership are now proposing to extend the bans across the areas of New England and the North Ward. Charles Swift is the councillor where these changes will be brought in, and our reporter Sam Appleby has been to meet him. (TAPE)
CHARLES SWIFT: Every morning you’ll find about forty or fifty on here. Anytime, empty beer cans, and things like that, vodka bottles and Jack Daniels whisky bottles. I stopped counting at 450 the other morning, when I was cycling round on my bicycle.
SAM APPLEBY: We’re standing on a path that runs all the way along the edge of a large sports field.
CHARLES SWIFT: We picked up 96 vodka bottles the other week off the sports field.
SAM APPLEBY: The other side of the path is lined by a six foot hedge. And immediately behind the hedges are wooden fences that mark the start of gardens. How well used is this area?
CHARLES SWIFT: Thousands of people use this area. Thousands of people.
SAM APPLEBY: But unfortunately it’s become a real hotspot for street drinkers, who are hanging out and even sleeping in the hedges here.
CHARLES SWIFT: The sad part about it is also you’ve got mothers and fathers taking their children to school down here. And I’m not being disrespectful, but they’ll just stand and have a slash.
SAM APPLEBY: I spoke to local residents about what it’s like to live here.
PUBLIC ONE: It’s a nightmare. You’re watching your back all the time. You don’t know what’s coming out of the bushes or anything else here.
SAM APPLEBY: This man uses the path every day to get to the local shops.
PUBLIC TWO: They hang about in groups, and then you get abuse every time you walk by.
SAM APPLEBY: How many are we talking?
PUBLIC TWO: It could be sometimes there could be twelve, fourteen of them sitting in a group. Women and all. Women as well.
SAM APPLEBY: Who are these people?
PUBLIC TWO: What do you want me to say? There’s gypsys, travellers and everything else. But we’re talking about something entirely different. These people are filthy. Filth.
SAM APPLEBY: This lady keeps her radio on all the time to block out the noise made by the people drinking behind her house.
PUBLIC THREE: 36 I’ve lived here, 36 years. I’ve seen it all, and this is the worst. Noisy, drinking, using over there as a toilet. You’ve got the beer cans. One of my grandaughters won’t even come to sleep now. Too much noise outside at night. If I could turn the clock back 20 years I would. This was a nice area. Not now.
SAM APPLEBY: What makes you stay here?
PUBLIC THREE: Family home. My children were brought up here. Most of my married life here. Memories. I felt safe in the house years ago. Now I don’t.
SAM APPLEBY: You said that keeping the radio on all the time makes you feel safe.
PUBLIC THREE: If you turn that off you hear the noises.
SAM APPLEBY: Charles, if this was introduced into the ban, surely the people that drink here are just going to move somewhere else.
CHARLES SWIFT: Exactly. They’ll go across the road into the Ravensthorpe Ward. The boundary lines are just over there. Or the Bretton Ward. It would be just as easy to designate an area so that the authority can say to them, there’s a site for you to go on.
SAM APPLEBY: So would you propose then a designated area to drink?
CHARLES SWIFT: Why not? Why not? Why not find a place for them? And then it won’t be annoying other people.
SAM APPLEBY: The thing is though Charles, if the Council designate an area for people to drink in, surely they’re just giving up, giving in to what many people would think of as a blight on our society.
CHARLES SWIFT: No, they’re facing up to their responsibilities.
SAM APPLEBY: Rather than looking at where to move people to, where to stop people from drinking, can’t we look at the actual problem and prevent these people from drinking in the first place?
CHARLES SWIFT: No no. You won’t do that. You won’t do that my love. Years ago you’d have seen an oddbod having a drink. We’d have called them tramps. Now there’s anywhere between 50, 100, 150 people roaming in various parts of this city, just drinking. It’s like a .. it’s cancerous, isn’t it? It’s cancerous. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Charlie Swift and Sam Appleby. Now earlier we heard from Fletton councillor Fran Benton. She admitted the DPPOs weren’t working. (TAPE)
FRAN BENTON: I think the public are actually a bit more aware of what’s going on around them. The committee member said last night, yes, it’s not working. We need to do something. We have a group of people that walked by the South Grove Community Centre. There were lots and lots of vodka bottles and beer cans last night, as I walked past. It’s a hidey-hole. People can sit there quite happily. Not many people use the cut-through, so they can sit there quite happily. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: So if DPPOs aren’t the answer, if we can’t stop people drinking in designated areas, and causing trouble, would a designated drinking area work, like Charlie Swift said? Or has former Mayor Keith Sharp got the right idea? He says drinking on the street should be banned right across the city, which is something we talked about earlier. Katy Softly is the Anti-Social Behaviour Coordinator from the Safer Peterborough Partnership, and she’s with us this morning. Morning Katy.
KATY SOFTLY: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: These area bans plainly don’t work, do they?
KATY SOFTLY: If I can just clarify for you. The Designated Public Places Orders, they give us an extra tool to tackle these sort of things. It’s not necessarily going to stop the whole problem, but it gives the police a preventative …
PAUL STAINTON: What would then? What would stop the whole problem?
KATY SOFTLY: Well if I could just explain to the listeners, so they understand, the DPPO, what it does, it doesn’t stop drinking. It allows the police to ask somebody to stop drinking if they believe they’re going to behave anti-socially. So it’s just, like I say, it’s another tool that they can use to try and tackle problems where we have anti-social behaviour. Now I’ve heard you talk about a city-wide ban this morning. I think we have to ensure that any action that we’re going to take across the city has to be proportionate.
PAUL STAINTON: But we could police that, can’t we?
KATY SOFTLY: I think the police would have to answer that one. If you’re talking about a city-wide ban, what that would actually do, that would mean that nobody would be able to drink. So that means that if people went down to Central Park for instance, for a family picnic, and they thought they might like to take a bottle of wine with them, if you had a city-wide ban, that would stop people being able to do ..
PAUL STAINTON: But what I’m trying to say is Katy, I’m sorry to interrupt, what I’m trying to say is, we’ve heard from residents in Fletton thgis morning. We’ve heard a bit about what they have to put up with. And the police, as the residents say, can’t be there all the time. But we’ve got people urinating on their back walls, bottles everywhere, residents having to pick them up, groups of people congregating that residents are scared to walk by. So perhaps as a a greater society thing, we’d be prepared to put up with a city-wide drinking ban, so that people can live in peace and quiet, and enjoy their lives without running in fear for their lives.
KATY SOFTLY: I think thge stories that we just heard there from the listeners, some of it is attributed to alcohol, but we’re talking about people describing groups, large groups of people who are behaving in an intimidating manner.
PAUL STAINTON: Well it’s attributed to alcohol. There’s bottles and bottles of vodka that people are picking up.
KATY SOFTLY: Yes. So what we need to be doing is, as part of the Safer Peterborough Partnership, you’ve got the Council, you’ve got the police. We’ve got lots of different people working together. We work closely with our councillors. We need to try and work a lot closer on trying to move these groups on, looking out why they’re congregating in particular places, and see if we can move them to more acceptable places for them to gather.
PAUL STAINTON: So you’re talking designated drinking areas, like Charlie Swift. Do you think that’s the idea?
KATY SOFTLY: I’m not. No. Not necessarily .. I’m not talking about a designated ..
PAUL STAINTON: Just moving the problem on then?
PAUL STAINTON: Just moving the problem on.
KATY SOFTLY: I’m not talking about moving the problem on, I’m talking about .. I think I think people would agree that there are certain places where they woudl tolerate seeing groups of people more than other areas. Nobody wants to see it in a residential area. But we have other areas where people might feel happier to see groups of people ..
PAUL STAINTON: Where do you suggest?
KATY SOFTLY: Well we might have .. if there are particular green spaces where people can .. what I’m talking about is people who are not causing the problem, trying to put groups of people somewhere else. The whole drinking thing is another issue that we need to get ..
PAUL STAINTON: You just said you want to move people on. Where would you like to see people, you know, standing around drinking from a bottle?
KATY SOFTLY: No that isn’t ..
PAUL STAINTON: Round your house?
KATY SOFTLY: Sorry. No I don’t think I said I’d like to move people on who are drinking. I said we’ve got different issues there. We’ve got the DPPO that is there, designed to tackle the anti-social drinking. When we’re talking about groups of intimidating people, that one or two of your listeners described, then those particular instances need dealing with on a case by case basis. We cover the whole of the city, so I can’t today comment on particular cases, or particular pockets. We’d need to look at those and work closely with the police, and trying to tackle those particular cases.
PAUL STAINTON: Are you frustrated that these orders aren’t working?
KATY SOFTLY: I don’t think that they .. I don’t believe that they don’t work. I think what they do is they give the police a power to tackle problematic drinking. And as I said they’re not going to solve the whole problem, but they are useful and they do help the police to deal with a problem there and then.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. Well what’s the future? What can we do going forward here? Because you’re doing your best evidently. The police are doing their best. But people are still struggling. Is it just a case of putting a bit more effort in, or maybe focusing them more?
KATY SOFTLY: I think it might be about residents making sure they report things as much as possible. There’s lots of different groups of meetings now, where residents have a voice. The police hold regular panels in their neighbourhoods. If people are frustrated that they’ve got a problem that they think is regularly happening, they need to use those panels to raise those problems so that we can all work together to try and stop it.
PAUL STAINTON: We’ve had many many comments this morning. And one particular comment said, ” Who is giving out all these licences to shops to sell this alcohol? “That’s the problem according to some of our listeners this morning. There’s too much alcohol readily available on the streets. Is that part of the problem here?
KATY SOFTLY: I don’t work in Licensing. I’ve got colleagues that work in the Licensing team, and they take lots of factors into account when they agree to give out licences. So I can’t comment.
PAUL STAINTON: Is alcohol too readily available is the question I’m asking you? Your opinion.
KATY SOFTLY: I don’t .. well .. I mean I don’t think that’s what the situation is. I think if somebody wants to drink, they will find the means to get the drink.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. OK Katy. Thank you. Katy Softly, Anti-Social Behaviour Coordinator from the Safer Peterborough Partnership,