An initiative which is designed to discourage anti-social behaviour in Swindon Town Centre has been launched this week.
Swindon Borough Council has joined forces with Wiltshire Police and inSwindon Bid Co to focus on improving the behaviours of a minority of people within the Town Centre area currently covered by a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO).
The PSPO focuses on issues such as keeping dogs on leads, begging, skateboarding, cycling and drinking in public and is aimed at creating a welcoming and safe environment for those that visit the Town Centre.
Under the new enforcement and behaviour change initiative, issues such as illegal parking, littering, untidy sites, fly-tipping and dog fouling will also be tackled.
Councillor Oliver Donachie, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy and Place, said: “There is no doubt that the PSPO has served its purpose in terms of raising awareness of the types of anti-social behaviour we want to stamp out in the Town Centre.
“But there is still a small minority of people who are continuing to flout the restrictions and this cannot continue, especially when we want to support our High Street and encourage people to come into the Town Centre.
“We now have dedicated staff who will be a visible presence in the Town Centre, together with our partners in the Police. Our message is a clear one ‘The Town Centre is an anti-social activity free zone and if you persist with your behaviour you will be fined’.”
Since the PSPO was introduced in the town centre almost four years ago, officers from the Council, Wiltshire Police and InSwindon BID Co have offered advice to thousands of individuals who were contravening the order. As every individual approached stopped their activity following the advice, there has up until now been no need to issue any fines
The ‘warning and informing’ policy, covers the town centre, Regent Circus, the public thoroughfares into the town centre from Swindon railway station and the area around Spring Gardens.
However, in an effort to stop people from violating the PSPO in the first place and in taking part in other anti-social activities, the Council has employed extra staff who will join colleagues from the Police in carrying out regular patrols to provide a visible reminder to people that the PSPO is in operation.
Dedicated council staff will include two Envirocrime Officers who will focus on changing people’s bad behaviours, and two Civil Enforcement Officers, who will deal with parking infringements.
Based on the intelligence gathered through the initiative, the Council may look to employ additional staff in the coming months to join colleagues in the Police as part of a multi-enforcement approach.
PSPOs were introduced as part of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and are primarily aimed at changing and improving behaviour. Anyone caught breaching the order will be advised to stop their activity and, if they fail to do so, a fixed penalty notice may be issued. The fixed penalty is set at £100 and, if not paid, could result in court fines of up to £1,000.
Fines for illegal parking, fly-tipping, dog fouling and littering can range from £25 right up to £400 for incidents of fly-tipping.
Signage warning people of the PSPO restrictions is already in place in the Town Centre, but further signs will be brought in to provide even greater awareness of the activities that are prohibited. The PSPO does not seek to criminalise rough sleeping and all Council officers involved in the initiative have undertaken awareness training to enable them to signpost vulnerable people to appropriate support and early intervention services.
The enforcement and behaviour change initiative will be monitored over the next three months to evaluate its effectiveness.
PC Paul Bezzant, Town Centre Community Co-ordinator, said: “We are committed in supporting the Council’s effort to tackle anti-social behaviour in the town. This will assist in keeping the town centre safe and clean – something every resident, shopper and person coming in to town deserves.”
Cllr Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for the Town Centre, said: “Residents and business have said enough is enough, and we agree. Swindon is weeks away from construction starting on the first office development since the 1990s.
“We cannot allow the behaviour of a tiny minority from keeping our town centre clean, safe and inviting, and jeopardise the work of attracting new investment to our town.”