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Increased police patrols requested in Sudbury to address concerns about begging and street drinking

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Growing concerns about 'professional begging' and street drinking in Sudbury has led a council to reiterate its plea for a greater police presence in the town.

Sudbury Town Council voted to directly contact the chief constable at Suffolk Police to ask for more police patrols in an effort to address public nuisance offences.

Issues around begging and people drinking alcohol in outdoor public places have reportedly risen during recent periods of good weather, the council heard during its leisure and environment committee meeting last week.

Sudbury's Market Hill. Picture: Mark Westley
Sudbury's Market Hill. Picture: Mark Westley

Deputy town mayor Ellen Murphy suggested the increased prevalence of begging had been a result of 'professional beggars' – people who are not homeless, but use the practice as a form of income.

Begging is currently an offence in the UK under the Vagrancy Act, although in March, the Government outlined plans to repeal and replace this act.

Cllr Murphy told the council: “All I’m asking for is that, especially on market days, we have a police presence, because the beggars we are getting are professional beggars. That’s not acceptable.

“Begging is still a criminal offence. The problem we’ve got is, because other areas are stopping begging and street drinking, we are now getting the influx from other areas.

“If we allow begging to carry on and we condone it, what about any other crime?

“With people coming into the town during the nice weather, especially for the jubilee, I think we also need to stop the street drinking, which does occur when the weather gets nicer.

“There are people sitting on the benches drinking outside the town hall and at Siam Gardens, and they’re all over the place.

Siam Gardens in Sudbury. Picture: Richard Marsham
Siam Gardens in Sudbury. Picture: Richard Marsham

“I’m asking for a police presence, especially on Thursdays and Saturdays, to try to control street drinking and begging.”

These concerns were echoed by Adrian Osborne, a town and district councillor for Sudbury, who added: “I’ve had residents come up to me recently, talking about begging, because it has been going on in Sudbury.

“If we go back a few years, we tried to have a no-drinking zone placed within the central area of Sudbury, but, unfortunately, councillors didn’t go for that.”

Adrian Osborne
Adrian Osborne

The resolution marked the second time in just six months that Sudbury Town Council has voted to write directly to police chiefs in Suffolk, asking them to increase the number of on-foot patrols locally.

In October, councillors expressed frustration at the lack of police visibility in the town, following a sequence of assaults and late-night crimes in the wake of the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the summer.

According to official crime statistics, recorded up to February, the crime rate in Sudbury has remained at a similar level for the last three years.

However, the national data analysis project CrimeRate.co.uk stated that Sudbury’s crime rate in 2021 – reported as 97 offences per 1,000 people – compared poorly with the overall rate in Suffolk.

This meant that the website branded Sudbury as 'the most dangerous small town in Suffolk' for the second year in a row.