This week the town centre is buzzing as the final preparations for the Tour de Yorkshire are made. Friday promises to be a fantastic day and a very proud moment for Barnsley as we welcome one of the most prestigious international cycling events to our town.
However, I share the concerns expressed by many of my constituents regarding the recent increase in anti-social behaviour in the town centre. Many people have been in touch with me to share their experiences. It is deeply worrying that at a time when Barnsley should be celebrating, instead there are distressing images on social media of individuals collapsed in the streets due to drug and alcohol misuse.
Concerns about anti-social behaviour have been raised with me by a significant number of constituents over a number of years, and I have worked hard to tackle since I was first elected as MP for Barnsley Central.
Recently, I have met with Chief Constable for South Yorkshire Police, Steve Watson, Chief Superintendent Scott Green, Barnsley’s District Commander, and senior officers from Barnsley Council to review the current situation. This followed on from a Town Centre Partners meeting, attended by senior officers from South Yorkshire Police, Barnsley Council, local security companies and local business owners.
At both these meetings I raised a number of key concerns about the current situation. These included the level of drug and alcohol abuse, dangerous driving, thefts, aggressive behaviour and littering. I also expressed my frustration that the level of anti-social behaviour remains unacceptably high.
It is clear that the causes of anti-social behaviour are complex, resources are stretched and solutions are not straightforward.
One of the main challenges that we face is the increased numbers of people with alcohol and drug abuse issues who are engaging in intimidating and unacceptable behaviour across the town. I am determined to put a stop to this kind of behaviour and I will continue to work hard with the Police and Barnsley Council to make sure possible steps are being taken to address the key issues.
Whilst the Police are working hard with the resources they have available, it is important to recognise that they continue to be drastically underfunded. Police numbers have continued to fall consistently since the Conservatives came in to power in 2010. For Barnsley, this means that we have lost almost 600 police officers over the last 7 years, which is 23% of front line staff. This is an appalling situation and I will continue to raise my concerns about the impact of police cuts with the new Home Secretary until the Government takes action.
In the meantime, in order to help the police to target their limited resources effectively, it is vital that residents report all incidents of anti-social behaviour. You can do this by calling 101 or going to https://www.reportingcrime.uk/ You may also find it useful to raise your concerns about policing with the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire; Dr Alan Billings. You can contact Dr Billings via email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Barnsley Council also have powers to take action on anti-social behaviour issues. They have started to exercise these powers by introducing a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) – I requested that this be done. Part of this PSPO allows certain Council employees to ban people from the town centre if their behaviour is anti-social but not criminal and also to take other enforcement action.
If people witness anti-social behaviour, I would urge them to report these issues to Barnsley Council so that they can take the appropriate action. You can do this here.
In the meantime, I will contact both South Yorkshire Police and Barnsley Council to raise this issue with them again.