Reduction in street drinking
We are at last beginning to see signs of a reduction in street drinking in the town centre.
More Police, more Enforcement Officers and clear signage
The Dewsbury Blueprint launched in February last year included funding for two full Police Constables dedicated to policing the town centre plus a number of additional council Enforcement Officers specifically to give teeth to the Public Space Protection Order when it was renewed on 6 April 2020..
Our two dedicated PCs volunteered from other work and started in Dewsbury back in October while the recruitment and training process for the new council posts of Enforcement Officers has taken some time. However, they are now beginning to operate.
While the whole PSPO covers a range of forbidden activities the most important for the greatest proportion of the community was to put a stop to street drinking, usually by groups of men, that visitors to the town find intimidating.
The Chamber has long complained that the biggest problem with the old PSPO was the lack of signage, particularly in those areas that people tended to gather and socialise outside shops selling off-licence alcohol. That has all changed with a new set of signs going up around the town centre at the end of December.
The PSPO covers the whole town centre within the ring road and there are now two designs of sign in place. A larger sign covering all the activities forbidden under the PSPO that are in place at the main entry points to the town centre, i.e. outside the Market office, by the bus station and the pedestrian underpass into town from the Railway Street retail park.
Smaller signs concentrating on the 'no drinking' issue are now in place on the ornamental railings at both ends of Market Place and on the rubbish bins in both Market Place and Foundry Street. These are specifically intended to be visible to groups gathering on the seating provided in these areas.
No drinking signs
Off licence shops
As well as the public signage and direct intervention by the increased number of police and council officers, the council's licencing and enforcement officers are beginning a campaign to visit those shops selling alcohol off-licence to encourage them both to display appropriate signs and to educate their customers in what is expected of them in public spaces.
Perceptions, Assumptions and Confusion
While we are all happy to see improvements arising from a more positive enforcement of the PSPO, feedback from our town centre police is already showing that there are a number of false assumptions being made by some members of the public and being spread by social media.
Just because there are a number of people gathered together with cans in their hands does not automatically mean they are drinking alcohol.
Generally, those groups who gather are now well aware from regular contact with the police that drinking of alcohol is not permitted. Generally, they are polite and non aggressive - and are drinking soft drinks. Some of them gather, particularly in the morning at the bottom of Daisy Hill, waiting to be picked up to go to work.
On the other hand, the police report that those found drinking alcohol and being rude and aggressive are usually home grown.
Dewsbury and Yorkshire in general is renowned as a friendly place that has taken in migrants and those looking to better themselves for decades if not centuries. Let's not give our latest arrivals a hard time based on our own false assumptions.