Concerns raised about virus spread as street drinkers and beggars flout lockdown restrictions
PUBLISHED: 16:19 03 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:34 04 May 2020
Street drinkers are continuing to pose a problem in Bury St Edmunds despite the lockdown, it has been claimed.
The town’s BID (Business Improvement District) said there are still issues with antisocial behaviour caused by street drinkers and beggars even though the volume of people visiting the centrehas fallen dramatically during the coronavirus crisis.
Mark Cordell, chief executive of the BID, said he understood some of these individuals had been displaying possible Covid-19 symptoms.
MORE: ‘Enough is enough!’ - drive to combat street drinking in Bury St Edmunds town centre
Mr Cordell said: “Concerns have been raised by businesses about the presence of individuals who are either drinking or have chaotic lifestyles who are not conforming to social distancing rules and are causing problems for businesses and members of the public.
“I’m very happy with how the police have responded to these reports, but none the less the problem still remains and is a challenge when people won’t adhere to the expectations of the government.”
He said if those in question had possible Covid-19 symptoms it presented the police “with a very difficult decision in regard to detaining them and possibly putting their staff and custody block out of commission or trying to persuade the individuals to be responsible and go home”.
Inspector Matt Paisley, of the Bury St Edmunds Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT), said they have reports of seven people breaching regulations and “continue to monitor and tackle the problems”.
He said: “We continue to use police powers as appropriate and will work with partners to resolve the issues.
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“While every attempt is made to protect my officers through continuing risk assessments, when dealing with those displaying Covid-19 symptoms, this has to be carefully balanced with the wider protection of the public, prevention of the spread of the virus and longer-term protection of the NHS.
“Therefore, where powers exist to remove those from the streets displaying symptoms, and all attempts at engaging, persuading and conversing have failed, we are taking the wholly appropriate action to remove them using the relevant powers.”
He said since the introduction of the government’s legislation, their officers have been continuing to work with partners regarding issues with street drinking, homelessness and other associated issues in the town.
MORE: Work is going on behind the scenes to tackle street drinking in Bury St Edmunds
He added: “A number of people, classified as homeless, have been provided with accommodation in local hotels. This has enabled us to engage and encourage those people to return to their temporary homes when they have been found to be in the town.”
A West Suffolk Council spokesman said there were no confirmed rough sleepers in Bury town centre currently, adding they wanted to stress “not all street drinkers are homeless people”.
“Of those that we have accommodated, many will have addictions and we are working with police to try to prevent people going out and breaking the social gathering rules – but at the same time we are not in a position to lock people in.
“If people are social gathering at this time, then this should be reported as and when it happens to the police,” they said.
Mr Cordell said it was “imperative” that when the town was able to reopen once restrictions begin being lifted that people felt safe.
To report antisocial behaviour that requires police attendance call 999 or 101 depending on the severity of the situation or to make police aware of an incident via email
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