Order to clampdown on aggressive begging and disorderly behaviour to be introduced in Stockton Town Centre and Norton
Aggressive begging and alcohol related anti-social behaviour in Stockton Town Centre and Norton is set to be targeted with a new Public Space Protection Order (PSPO).
PSPOs give councils and the Police more power to fine individuals for specific and repeated anti-social behaviour problems in a given area.
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council's Cabinet gave the green light for the introduction of a new PSPO yesterday (February 23) after hearing how aggressive begging was by far the greatest area of concern for the public in Stockton Town Centre and Norton Village.
The PSPO will target aggressive begging, including begging in a threatening or intimidating way, following people or begging near a cash machine or bus stop, and drinking alcohol in specified areas.
Those choosing to ignore the order will be warned by Civic Enforcement Officers or Police Officers before alcohol is seized - and in the case of both aggressive begging and alcohol, a £100 fixed penalty notice may be issued as a last resort.
Councillor Norma Stephenson, the Council's Cabinet Member for Access, Communities and Community Safety, said: "While Stockton-on-Tees continues to have the lowest recorded crime and anti-social behaviour rate in the Cleveland Police area, we continue to face challenges in our town centres.
"Aggressive begging in Stockton Town Centre accounts for more than one in four reports made to the Council's Civic Enforcement Team, followed by drink related rowdy and nuisance behaviour. The story is similar in Norton Village, although there are fewer complaints here."
In November and December 2022, the Council carried out a consultation to find out what people thought about introducing a PSPO - 81% of people said aggressive begging affected their decision whether to visit Stockton Town Centre. In Norton 69% of people who responded said they had been affected by aggressive begging.
Councillor Stephenson continued: "Residents told us that these behaviours are having a detrimental impact on their feelings of safety when they are coming into Stockton Town Centre or Norton Village to work, shop, or enjoy a night out.
"The protection of our residents, businesses and visitors is of absolute importance. That's why the immediate focus of this PSPO will be on drinking in the street, because we know it often goes hand in hand with rowdy and anti-social behaviour and aggressive begging, because it makes people feel threatened.
"But we also fully understand that there can be a whole range of reasons behind why people beg.
"People see beggars and they assume they're rough sleepers, which in our Borough is normally not the case.
"Like most complex problems, it's about finding a fair balance and we can reassure people that we always do everything we possibly can to help the person involved.
"That includes offering help with any drugs or alcohol issues they may be experiencing and helping with any difficulties claiming benefits or seeking employment.
"But when begging spills over into aggressive behaviour or harassment it can be very frightening for those on the receiving end of it.
"In those cases, we have to step in to protect the public, who have a right to go about their lives free from the fear of harassment, alarm and distress. And if such behaviour continues, it leaves us with no choice but to take formal action as a last resort."
The Council's Civic Enforcement Service, which operates from 7am until midnight every day of the year, will continue to work closely with Cleveland Police to enforce the new PSPO.
A Cleveland Police spokesperson said: "Cleveland Police fully support the introduction of a Public Space Protection Order and have been included in the planning process for this.
"It's important that those living and working in Stockton and Norton feel safe whilst visiting these areas. Anyone not complying with the order will be asked to move on, whilst those who refuse could be fined up to £100."
The PSPO will come into force on Monday, April 3 and is valid for three years.
You can report any concerns to our Civic Enforcement Service on 01642 528439 or email email@example.com
For Council news direct to your inbox sign up to our My Council Newsletter.