How the authorities are responding to the complex problem of street drinking and anti-social behaviour in Bury St Edmunds
Town organisations, the police and councils are working together to combat a complex problem of street drinking and anti-social behaviour in Bury St Edmunds.
As the town, nicknamed The Jewel in the Crown of Suffolk, comes out of lockdown, shopkeepers last week expressed fears that anti-social behaviour, in particular street drinking and 'drunkenness', both during the day, and evening, could harm their trade.
Anti-social behaviour has been on ongoing problem for the town but had eased during lockdown, according to the town's police.
Last week, however, The Bury Free Press revealed a number of recent incidents have worried shopkeepers and townsfolk.
The problems have occurred mainly around the Brentgovel Street area, and at a time when the town as a whole, is experiencing its highest footfall since lockdown eased.
Last September one store - Furniture Market - cited anti-social behaviour as the reason for it closing, after suffering break-ins, broken windows and assault.
Individuals also set up 'camp' on the roof of the town's Moyse's Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds using wooden pallets and carpet.
Staff at Superdrug have recently been concerned about an area at the back of the store being used as a dumping ground and toilet area, after repeatedly discovering human faeces, which they have reported to local councils.
Staff at Boots Opticians meanwhile discovered a man unconscious in their entrance way at 7.55am on August 19, who was later transferred by ambulance to West Suffolk Hospital for treatment.
Staff at GAME, reported seeing police and ambulance visits "every other day" - and people, including teenagers, regularly congregating around McDonalds, on the edge of the Buttermarket, which they were concerned - "worried" customers.
Matt Paisley, police inspector for Bury St Edmunds said: “We are continuing to work with our partners regarding issues with street drinking, homelessness and other associated issues in the town.
As part of our approach, we regularly engage with groups congregating in this area and the issues remain a local priority for the force.
"Our approach ranges from engagement, intervention and robust enforcement.
“However, we recognise that there are wider issues so we are in constant liaison with the council, health services, local business leads and housing teams in order to look for holistic and practical solutions to help those in need.
“During the lockdown period, there were fewer people in the town centre and calls to police in relation to street drinking and associated issues did subside. However, officers did continue to patrol the area and engage.
“A number of complaints have been made to police regarding anti-social behaviour and street drinking within the town centre. We continue to tackle these issues and will work with our partners in order to find long-term solutions.
“Anyone who witnesses or experiences anti-social behaviour, should report it to police on 101 or via the constabulary’s website.”
Mark Cordell, chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds (BID) shared shopkeeper concerns about potential harm to trade.
He said: “Prior to the town coming out of lockdown in mid-June, I had been in touch with the council and police about anti-social behaviour and how this might deter people from coming into the town centre.
I am aware that on many occasions the police have responded positively to reports of unwarranted behaviour as well as preventing problems before they occur, such as confiscating alcohol being consumed in public.
"I have been in touch with the council about rough sleepers and particularly those sleeping in the doorway of Boots the Opticians in Brentgovel Street. I have also recently met the newly appointed council support officer to discuss my concerns and hear what positive action he and is colleagues intend to take to address this issue.
"Over the past year there has been a very positive relationship between the police, West Suffolk Council and the BID and additionally Jo Churchill MP has played an important role in ensuring all parties work together to positively address the issue.
"I am confident that the strength of this partnership can ensure that there is a co-ordinated response to this particular issue.
"The authorities need to do all they can to address any anti-social behaviour that might be deterring visitors and customers of our businesses to return to the town."
A spokesperson for West Suffolk Council, said: “We are aware of anti-social behaviour and street drinking in town and we continue to work with police and other partners to try to address this issue.”
Jo Churchill MP said: “I am aware of the resumption of street drinking and anti-social behaviour in Bury St Edmunds town centre and will be working with Mark Cordell of Bury Bid, the police and the council in order to ensure we refocus our efforts on the issue in order to give business owners and residents the security they deserve.”