Police commissioner: Teamwork is tackling homelessness in Chesterfield

Hardyal Dhindsa, Police and Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire. Photo by John McLean
Hardyal Dhindsa, Police and Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire. Photo by John McLean

Helping people with their problems is an effective way of reducing crime but it cannot be achieved by any one organisation.

There’s rarely just one reason why an individual might become isolated or distanced from society. Instead, a combination of complex problems will

exist – each of which needs specialist intervention. It is this mind-set that has driven our work in Chesterfield Town Centre to turn around the lives of vulnerable members of the community engaged in begging, street drinking, drug-taking and antisocial behaviour.

Since we launched the Chesterfield Town Summit last year we’ve been working with many local organisations and businesses to improve the experience of people who live, work and shop in Chesterfield. This includes Chesterfield Borough Council, Chesterfield Community Safety Partnership, local charities and the Chamber of Commerce and I am grateful to everyone for their enthusiasm and support.

Together we are able to provide practical and emotional help to individuals whose homelessness and street-based lifestyles bring them into regular contact with the police. The work has included the provision of housing support, help for breaking addictions and links to specialist services to address mental health issues.

While the focus for this work is recovery, there must always be consequences for those who persistently cause problems in our town centres and refuse to engage in the support offered.

Every resident in Chesterfield and beyond has the right of a safe and peaceful life and I’m determined to protect this.

The implementation of the Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in Chesterfield town centre in December has been a valuable ally, helping us restore a level of control over localised problems and increase confidence among the public. The order itself prohibits a range of antisocial activity and enables us to confiscate open or unopened alcohol tins or bottles from those found drinking on the streets.

Latest figures show that since August, 172 individuals have been arrested and five imprisoned during the project while six people have been handed Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBO). These are court orders which aim to tackle persistent antisocial behaviour and can be issued against anyone aged 10 or over.

The majority of people adhere to the Dispersal Warnings when issued but for those who don’t, the full use of our enforcement powers are available. It’s important to remember these penalties only arise when all other attempts to prevent repeat antisocial behaviour and long-term behavioural change have failed. The emphasis will remain on supporting vulnerable people to break the cycle of harm.

Moving on, this month we’ve finalised the budget for 2018-19 which will see our funded police officer establishment increase for the first time since the start of austerity to 1700 officers. We’ll welcome an additional 25 police officers in the next 12 months to help us tackle new risks to public safety.

Regrettably, the government chose not to increase the grant it gives to me to pay for policing and so the burden of safeguarding our future will fall to local residents through a £12 annual increase in Council Tax, as set out by policing minister Nick Hurd in December. It is a difficult situation but I’m very grateful for the public’s support for this rise, as revealed through my online survey. The £4.4m we will have in 2018-19 from this income and a contribution of our reserves means we can better protect Derbyshire in the future by investing in our people, resources and estate.