The Public Space Protection order banning drinking in and around the High Street may be scrapped because there is no one to enforce it.
The three-strong Thornton Heath ward Safer Neighbourhood Team which has recently been increased to four, have been left to singlehandedly tackle the issue because the council’s enforcement team is no longer accredited because of cost savings.
This means that Neighbourhood Safety Officers can no longer issue a Community Protection Notice (CPN) because they can’t require an individual to provide their name and address.
The council enforcement officers also can’t seize alcohol and are only able to ask – not order the drinker to pour away booze, even if it’s being openly consumed in a no drinking zone.
The police recently secured a second Community Behaviour Order against a female street drinker who they describe as a ‘ringleader’ banning her from Thornton Heath. A previous street drinker was also issued with a CBO which similarly prevented him entering Thornton Heath.
However, police say they don’t want to give ‘false hope’ to the community that this will solve the problem. They say they don’t have the resources to enforce the council’s PSPO alone.
In February 2018 it was announced that the council cabinet had agreed ‘funds’ to recruit 20 additional enforcement officers bringing the number to 60, but this would have cost of £1million so instead the council carried out a review of the existing team to see if the service could be improved and be ‘more visible’ by being more efficient.
The Neighbourhood Team is meant to be 41 but has six vacancies so currently stands at 36. However, at a subsequent Safer Neighbourhood Team ward panel meeting in Thornton Heath it emerged that there are only 24 of that number patrolling the streets and because they double up for safety only 12 out at any one time. The NSO’s cover the whole of Croydon enforcing fly tipping and anti social behaviour.
Cabinet lead on safety councillor Hamida Ali, told last month’s Thornton Heath Community Action Team meeting that the early findings of the the NSOs performance review had revealed that officers were too office bound.
She added that the review while not yet finished had resulted in increased patrols in the north of the borough by 27 per cent.
Cllr Ali said she wanted the council NSOs to work more closely with the police ‘much more hand in glove’ so they can ‘complement’ the police and increase community engagement.
The largest numbers of complaints in Thornton Heath have focussed on anti social behaviour. Some residents avoided the Clock Tower during the summer with residents complaining they were unable to sleep because of the noise from the street drinkers congregating there.
After one all night session, a fight broke out between two members of the group which was witnessed the next morning by parents and children going to nursery.
Two people were recently convicted of public order offences and each given a one year conditional discharge and £20 fine. Last week street drinkers were witnessed arguing outside the leisure centre and a man was so drunk he collapsed face down on the pavement just days before. Residents have also complained of hundreds of cans being dumped by the drinkers near homes off the High Street.
Police officers have provided evidence to the council for CPN’s but not one had been issued. In the past the council’s enforcement officers were trained to industry standard and accredited by the borough commander, which meant they had greater powers.