Doncaster market traders are calling on police to do more to crack down on violent town centre street drinkers after a stallholder was attacked.
Some traders say they are too scared to walk to their stalls alone first thing in the morning after a business owner was beaten with a walking stick. The incident, at about 6pm on July 31, is one of a spate of recent offences which has led to talks between Doncaster Council and South Yorkshire Police regarding the introduction of a Public Spaces Protection Order.
If successful, the order would make it an offence for groups of five or more people to congregate if they are behaving in a ‘threatening’ manner – and is set to be in operation from St George’s Bridge to Chequer Road. In just three months, some 37 fixed penalty notices for drunk and disorderly behaviour have been issued in the town centre.
Local policing unit neighbourhoods temporary Insp Lynne Lancaster said officers have seen an increase in the number of anti-social behaviour complaints over the last few months, but she hopes the order will help market traders and customers feel safer.
She said: “We’ve had a lot of people say they’re feeling intimidated in the town centre, and this affects everyone who uses the town centre.
“People are telling us about aggressive begging and general anti-social behaviour, and we want to be able to cut down on that using these new policing powers and to make it a more pleasant area for everyone.”
‘Aggressive begging’ is also being cited as one the reasons for the introduction of the order, after 63 reported incidents between January and April, and 10 people being issued with Community Protection Notices in the last six weeks.
Under the order, homeless people will be prohibited from sleeping or begging in any town centre area open to the public.
Anyone who breaches the order could be faced with an on-the-spot fine of up to £100 and could also have criminal charges brought.
Shiralee Jones, of Doncaster Seafoods, says violent street drinkers and ‘aggressive beggars’ have led to a downturn in the number of people visiting the markets.
She said: “It’s definitely putting people off coming to the markets. Saturdays are the worst with people drinking everywhere and effing and blinding. It’s not what you want to see when you’ve got kids. It’s intimidating.
“I definitely think the police should be doing more – if they were patrolling more then this wouldn’t happen.”
A spokesman for the M25 Housing and Support group, a Doncaster-based charity that has offered assistance to homeless people in the borough for over 20 years, said: “There is a misconception in Doncaster that aggressive begging is directly linked with homeless people. M25’s experience is that those actively begging are not in fact homeless and their choice to engage in begging is in fact one alternative potential to make money. It is suggested that on average £50-70 per day can be made through aggressive begging.”