Bexhill MP, Huw Merriman, has welcomed police action to target anti-social behaviour in the town centre. Residents had reported concerns to the MP about intimidating and menacing behaviour. The situation had got so bad that some primary school children had told the MP that they did not feel safe to walk their own streets during the day.
This month, Sussex Police used temporary powers to put a 48 hour dispersal order on individuals who are known to cause trouble in the town centre. These powers are granted where the police are satisfied that there is a risk of known individuals harassing or distressing members of the public or increasing the likelihood of criminal acts being performed. Breaching the order leads to an arrest and a number of arrests were made in the town as a result.
The operation follows a summit, held in the MP’s Bexhill office between local cross-party politicians, the police, public agencies and church leaders, as to how to help those who are genuinely homeless and protect them from those who loiter the streets and take advantage of both them and members of the public.
Following the crack-down, Mr Merriman spent a day on the beat with Sussex Police and thanked them for the targeted action. Speaking afterwards, he said ‘As has become sadly obvious, there is an increase in loitering and harassment on the streets. We need to differentiate between those who are genuinely homeless and need our assistance and those who dupe the public’s kindness in order to prey on the vulnerable and commit crime. It’s important to use a stick and carrot approach and operate a zero tolerance approach to those whose poor behaviour blights the lives of others. Taking these people, who tend not to be homeless, off the street will allow us to intervene and help those who are. I am pleased that a group of us have got together to find a solution to this issue. The action by the police is welcome and I thank them for taking a stand on our behalf. We now need to continue with the pressure and look for longer-term solutions ensure our streets are welcoming to residents and visitors alike.”
The MP plans to release information to guide residents as to how they can help those in need, in addition to warning signs to protect the public from unwittingly helping those whose aims are criminal.