A proposal to change the Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) for Poole Town Centre and Holes Bay, to issue support instead of fines for certain behaviours deemed ‘anti-social’, was defeated in a Cabinet earlier this month but what are PSPOs and why did the council want to change the existing fines based system?
What are Public Space Protection Orders?
PSPOs were introduced as part of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and are designed to tackle the various types of unacceptable behaviour in public areas. Councils can create and enforce their own PSPOs around the types of behaviour they feel are most prevalent in their public spaces, but they must consult with the local Chief Officer of Police, the Police and Crime Commissioner and anyone who owns or occupies the land in question.
What changes did the council propose?
Having successfully introduced Community Safety Accreditation Scheme Officers into Bournemouth, the proposal was to use CSAS Officers in Poole Town Centre and Holes Bay to engage with those behaving anti-socially, in place of existing methods. These officers are empowered to record names and addresses of those displaying anti-social behaviours, and confiscate alcohol from underage drinkers. Vitally, they also work with agencies and organisations to support and refer rough sleepers and individuals misusing substances. CSAS Officers were deployed in Bournemouth in 2016 with a Council report stating that within a year, community feeling of safety had improved, and perception of local anti-social behaviour had decreased.
In addition to this, the proposal included the removal of four of the restrictions on the existing PSPO from 2018 for Holes Bay and Poole Town Centre, which would mean they were no longer offences for which fines could be issued:
- Obstructing shop doorways, car parks or public areas such as hallways, stairwells, etc
- Leaving personal belongings such as bedding or bags unattended
- Sitting or loitering in public spaces with receptacles used to hold money given by the public
Previously, anyone exhibiting these behaviours could be asked to leave the designated area for 48 hours, and failure to obey the instruction could result in a fine or a Fixed Penalty Notice. Under the proposed changes, CSAS Officers would provide support to the individuals in question, ensuring they receive help if they need it, but they would no longer move them on or issue fines or notices.
Would such a lenient approach encourage anti-social behaviour?
The goal of the proposal was to target individuals who cause the most problems in public spaces with assertive, persistent and consistent approaches, with fines remaining for the more disruptive anti-social behaviours.
However, the proposal would simultaneously support those whose behaviour is the result of a vulnerable position within society. For such people, support from mental health outreach services, organisations that assist the homeless, and addiction support groups are key to improving their lives and creating better public spaces for everyone.
What was the outcome of the proposal?
The report was presented to Cabinet on 9 September 2020, with the Overview and Scrutiny Board opposing the proposed changes. The vote was held with an outcome of 7 votes for rejecting the proposed changes, and 6 for seeing them through.
For more information on the PSPO Consultation and their role in tackling anti-social behaviour, you can view the report presented to Cabinet here.