Police put tackling drinkers as priority

TACKLING street drinking is a priority for officers patrolling the town centre.

Bognor Regis’ neighbourhood policing team is continuing the fight against the problem and officers are using the powers they have to combat the issue.

PC Mark Linberry, from the town centre team, said: “It is difficult for the public to understand that sometimes there are not any powers we can use.

“We have some complaints where people say that person is causing a problem. They are siting in a doorway looking untidy. We will go and speak to them, but unless they are breaking the law we can’t take action.

“If they are sat there drinking or behaving in an anti-social way we can do something but looking untidy is not against the law.”

An important part of the work officers and the town’s anti-social behaviour team do is to try to get those on the streets the help they need.

Jenny McMann said: “This is not a problem that can be solved by one agency. We do need a multi-agency approach and that is what we try to do. When we are out we signpost people to organisations like Stonepillow and Cry. But it is about creating a balance. Ultimately, if these people are breaking the law they need to be dealt with and they will be.”

Until December 15 the town area was covered by a dispersal order to enable the police to ban two or more people from the designated area for up a day.

It lasted for six months. During that time, more than 70 dispersals took place. A number of individuals were also arrested for defying the ban. However, new anti-social behaviour laws meant it had become outdated.

PC Linberry said: “The new laws meant that the dispersal order could not be renewed but there are other powers we can use, but only when they are appropriate. This can, to members of the public, be frustrating.

“If they walk-by and see us talking to someone and then not taking action they think we are not doing anything but we are.

“We are collecting information and by us speaking to them they know we are around. They know we are watching them and hopefully that will act as a deterrent.”

One power officers can use, with the permission of an inspector, is a section 35 notice. This means they can direct someone to leave the area and not return for a period of time up to 48 hours.

The notice can also state the route the person has to leave an area.

There is also a community protection notice – which has yet to be used.

PC Linberry said: “We haven’t got any real guidance on it yet. But the idea is you come with a contract that the person could keep too. For example, if they were a street drinker it would say that they could not drink alcohol in the street.”