Summit aims to crack down on crime across Ipswich town centre
PUBLISHED: 17:30 13 September 2017
Businesses and civic leaders in Ipswich are to come together in a bid to tackle crime problems across the town centre.
An “Action for Ipswich” summit is being organised by Ipswich Central with the support of Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore in an attempt to make shoppers and other visitors to the town centre feel more secure.
The summit, which is likely to be held at the Wherstead Park Conference Centre follows on from last month’s report into growing gang violence in the town.
But much of the focus is likely to be also on more general anti-social behaviour like begging, street drinking and sleeping in town centre doorways.
Ipswich Central chairman Terry Baxter said many businesses in the town centre were concerned about the apparent rise in anti-social behaviour that was putting visitors off from coming into the town.
And following the publication of the report into gang violence from Dr Paul Andell from the University of Suffolk, businesses felt there was a need to discuss their fears with the police and other bodies.
Mr Baxter said: “We are determined this will be a summit with a real purpose, it must not just be a talking shop. We have to see this situation is being addressed.”
The summit is being arranged with the support of the Ipswich Chamber and the East of England Co-op, whose director Minnie Moll is a member of the Ipswich Central board.
Mr Passmore met the Ipswich Central board with Suffolk Chief Constable Gareth Wilson and said he was determined to do all he could to address the concerns.
He said: “We are doing all we can to address the problems of the town centre, particularly with a view to rough sleeping and begging, but we know it is not a simple issue to address.
“We work with other agencies like local authorities, Ipswich Central and local groups, we gave IHAG (Ipswich Housing Action Group) £25,000 for their work in the town.”
Two PCSOs have been working to get the message across to people not to give to beggars but to support charities working with the homeless.
But he realised there were no easy solutions: “We need to all work together on this. It isn’t a problem that any one organisation can deal with on its own.”
Minnie Moll, Joint Chief Executive – East of England Co-op and Board Member of Ipswich Central said: “The East of England Co-op has over 20 food stores in Ipswich, and the safety of our colleagues, members and customers is a priority for us.
“In fact, we believe we’re the only retailer in the country with a dedicated anti-social behaviour officer who provides specialist support to our colleagues and community.
“We are aware of concerning trends in Ipswich so we are fully supportive of the Action for Ipswich Summit and look forward to hosting it at Wherstead Park next month.”
Former mayor warns of the challenge of dealing with Ipswich homeless
Last year’s Ipswich mayor Roger Fern has worked to help homeless people and warned there were no easy or cheap solutions to the problem.
He said: “This is a very difficult issue. Almost everyone living on the streets has serious mental health problems and will need to be supported for a very long time.
“There are problems with aggressive beggars. I was accosted by one near St Stephen’s Church the other day when wearing the chain (he is still deputy mayor). My response was assertive!”
He said it was not just a case of moving people into their own room or flat – they needed to be helped. It was a situation that was getting worse, and Ipswich was not unique.
Mr Fern said: “Those who you see living on the streets often have very serious drink or drug problems and any treatment takes a long time and there needs to be robust mental health structures to support them in that.”