OPINION: Yobs who blight Chesterfield town centre should be ashamed

The Derbyshire Times has long reported on problems with anti-social behaviour in Chesterfield town centre.
The Derbyshire Times has long reported on problems with anti-social behaviour in Chesterfield town centre.

In just a matter of weeks, police and council enforcement officers will have new powers to deal with - and hopefully deter - anti-social behaviour in Chesterfield town centre.

The Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) will ban:

► Any activity or behaviour causing nuisance, alarm, harassment or distress to any other person;

► Street drinking;

► Positioning or occupying any tent or temporary structure without the landowner’s permission;

► Loitering around areas - including shop entrances - to beg for money;

► Urinating or defecating anywhere that is not in a public toilet;

► Leaving any personal belongings unattended.

It will be a criminal offence to flout the PSPOs with rule-breakers facing either prosecution or a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) of up to £100.

If they don't pay the FPN, they'll be brought before the court where they may be jailed or ordered to attend a support service.

'Police are working hard'

The law-abiding majority are gravely concerned about yobbish behaviour on Chesterfield's streets.

Latest figures show police received 760 reports of anti-social behaviour in Chesterfield town centre between January and September this year - up nearly seven per cent compared with the same period in 2016.

Some people claim police 'aren't doing enough' to tackle the problem - but the reality is they are doing a great deal.

Our hard-working, stretched officers are carrying out a special operation to combat crime in the heart of Chesterfield.

So far, it's led to 20 offenders being jailed, more than 75 arrests and thousands of pounds' worth of drugs taken off the streets.

Police aren't complacent, however, and are fully aware that more work needs to be done - and it's hoped the PSPOs will help them make the area safer.

'There are genuinely desperate people'

Last month, police told us they arrested a man on suspicion of an offence in Chesterfield town centre.

The suspect claimed to be 'homeless' - but officers subsequently discovered he had a home.

It's very important to stress, however, that there are cases of genuinely desperate people who sadly end up living on Chesterfield's streets for a number of complex reasons - and they don't engage in criminal activity.

Latest Government statistics available show ten people were sleeping rough on Chesterfield's streets on a single night in November last year.

A recent report says the borough council does not have evidence that yobbish behaviour is directly linked to homeless people 'but rather to groups of individuals who refuse support and have made a choice to behave antisocially'.

The same report adds that the PSPOs are not designed to tackle homelessness - they are intended to combat anti-social behaviour - and officers will continue to signpost rough sleepers to the appropriate support services.

This week, Inspector Dave Nichols, the man in charge of policing in Chesterfield, told the Derbyshire Times: "There isn't a single homeless person in the town centre who hasn't been offered help and support on numerous occasions.

"But it becomes difficult to help those who don't want the help that is available to them."

Here at the Derbyshire Times, our journalists have spoken to a number of homeless people over the past year or so and put them into contact with organisations which can help them.

'Enough is enough'

Our newsroom regularly receives calls, emails and social media messages from horrified residents, shoppers and business owners who have witnessed appalling offences in Chesterfield town centre - people shouting abuse at passers-by, women defecting outside the Crooked Spire, a man masturbating when children are just yards away.

The sick, shameful list goes on and on.

This can't continue.

If you commit anti-social behaviour in Chesterfield town centre, know that a tough new crime crackdown is coming very soon.

Let’s hope the PSPOs make a positive difference.

Enough is enough.