Just 2 in 5 people feel safe in Luton town centre during daytime, new survey claims

Only around two in every five people feel safe or very safe in Luton town centre in the daytime, a survey revealed.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 1:23 pm
Updated Friday, 25th June 2021, 1:27 pm
Just two in five people feel safe in Luton town centre during the daytime,  meeting heard
Just two in five people feel safe in Luton town centre during the daytime, meeting heard

Only around two in every five people feel safe or very safe in Luton town centre in the daytime, a survey revealed.

Last year's research also shows two in every five residents feel fairly or very unsafe in that area at night.

Opinions were obtained before a public spaces protection order (PSPO), covering much of the town centre, was introduced and ahead of its renewal.

The 2016 data showed nearly three in five people were comfortable in the town centre during the daytime, 15 per cent higher than the figure in 2020.

This second survey was organised towards the end of the initial PSPO term, which the borough council's overview and scrutiny board agreed to extend for a further three years.

The PSPO covers street drinking, begging, urinating and defecating, spitting, dog fouling and dog control, according to a report to the board.

"Enforcement is usually by way of a fixed penalty notice set locally at £75, reduced to £50 for early payment," said the report.

Having been introduced in July 2018, the PSPO is due to expire next month (July).

Neighbourhood operations manager Tony Stefano told the board: "The order allows for local authorities and Bedfordshire Police to prohibit and restrict certain behaviours and help people feel safer."

Labour Biscot councillor Kashif Choudhry said: "The proportion of people feeling unsafe or very unsafe is quite high.

"I'm not really surprised as the PSPO isn't having a good impact. We need to do something workable, with a different approach.

"There are repeat offenders every day. We can only tell them to go away.

"We need to review this to make tougher policies and give that power to the officers."

He asked how the system could be improved to ensure people told to move on are prevented from returning, once enforcement officers leave.

Mr Stefano replied: "The PSPO is one element of a range of approaches that the officers undertake.

"They may go and come back, but there's other work they do to discourage that kind of behaviour.

"They signpost people to receive further help and support with other organisations.

"So they might return, but we do come back and move them on as well."

Acting service director for neighbourhood services Vicky Hawkes said: "The PSPO can help us formulate for additional action, such as an injunction or a criminal behaviour order.

"The police can use a different set of powers for individual repeat offending.

"The extension concerns where we deal with breaches. There's a small community park next to Manor Road.

"We saw a lot of displacement to that location, so that's why we consulted to increase the zone to there."

Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks said the PSPO "has no effect at all", adding: "That's why I'm bumping into people who do their shopping in Hitchin, St Albans or Milton Keynes.

"They don't want to go into Luton town centre. Sometimes I'm a bit nervous of doing so myself.

"I'm happy to support renewing this because I think it's a worthy cause.

"I'm quite happy to extend the boundary as I never understood why Manor Road was excluded in the first place.

"I would like to include those two recommendations and that executive discuss with the police, NOAH Enterprise and other agencies how the order can be made more effective."

The board backed this suggestion, while confirming the PSPO renewal and extension, subject to executive approval.