A £200,000 investment is part of plans for increased enforcement around “the key issues of street drinking, begging and anti-social behaviour” in Luton town centre, a meeting heard.
Bedfordshire Police, Luton Borough Council and a wider partnership are committed to tackling criminality and related issues within the town centre, according to a report to the local authority’s overview and scrutiny board.
“The area continues to be a local hotspot and unfortunately retains a negative reputation, as incidents continue to be experienced or witnessed by residents, businesses and visitors,” said the report.
“LBC’s 2022/23 budget included the approval of £200,000 for extra town centre enforcement measures.
“It’s acknowledged many incidents go unreported and that there remains a continuation of anti-social behaviour.”
The council’s service manager Vicky Hawkes said: “Enforcement is integrated with the partnership responses around prevention, intervention, education and engagement.”
Neighbourhood operations manager James Hardiman explained: “The first approach is increasing the visible patrolling resources and improve those feelings of public safety.
“The second part would be introducing an extra anti-social behaviour case management officer to focus on priority individuals often linked with complex factors and risk of addiction, vulnerability and exploitation.
“The third aspect would be considering creating a problem-solving fund to support the ongoing work.”
Chief Insp Jamie Langwith, from Bedfordshire Police, told the board: “The reason the only town centre unit within the county is in Luton is because of the challenges.
“We’ve invested a huge amount of officers in Luton town centre specifically,” he said. “I’ve committed to that over Operation Foresight.
“We’re talking to Vicky and her team about what can we do next. As to how many people we think we’re dealing with, it’s about 45 to 50. Transiently we don’t know because people are coming in for a day and then disappearing.
“We’ve five police officers and four PCSOs dedicated to town centre. But with incidents going on elsewhere in Luton, sometimes they’re instructed away from the town centre because of the risk based demand in policing.”
Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks said: “Whether this so-called plan will change things I have my doubts.
“I’m hoping the repopulation of the town centre with new housing developments will improve the situation. But it won’t if these flats are occupied by commuters.
“It will only work if local people move in who use the town centre and show they’re not prepared to tolerate this disgusting and dangerous behaviour which anyone using this area witnesses every time.
“You need to show enforcement is happening to the people you want to attract back into the town centre.”
Labour South councillor Javeria Hussain said: “I’ve seen an improvement. Residents report that back to me. I use the town centre regularly when I’m commuting and buying things.
“I’ve also been on operations with the policing team on a regular basis. Resources are always an issue. It’s a collaborative approach. It’s going to take time to deal with the dynamics and the challenges.”
The board agreed to support the future town centre enforcement plans.