From the editor: 'Instant impact is great but this must be long-term plan'

I was only asked if I had any spare change once in town yesterday. If you have been into the city centre at all recently you will know that is good going.

Friday, 25th September 2020, 11:06 am

I had several meetings and did my fair share of supporting independent businesses by buying coffee and lunch so I was out a lot.

It was instantly obvious that Operation Steel was having an impact. What a welcome relief. We all know the places where it feels awkward to walk because you know you will meet beggars, sometimes aggressive ones. Yes, I want to help the homeless but I do that by donating to the city’s brilliant charities working so hard to help them turn around their lives. Some times the lines between homelessness and antisocial behaviour become blurry but it is in all of our interests to help everybody who is struggling with life to such a terrible extent.

I really don’t want to feed their spice habit or encourage their drug addiction. I am also really concerned about the number of Star readers who tell me they are afraid to go into town because there are people who make them feel unsafe.

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South Yorkshire Police Operation Steel in Sheffield City Centre. Picture: Chris Etchells

None of us want that and it should never be allowed to happen. So I am sure shop keepers, shoppers, office workers and those who live in town are glad that we are seeing action to help these people.

Operation Steel prompted an interesting debate in this office. It is aimed at protecting the vulnerable. So who are they? That’s what I was asked and half of our team assumed it meant the people whose chaotic lives are wrecked by drugs. The other half assumed it meant shoppers who are concerned that they might be attacked by such folk.

A sad reflection of our times. Yes, it a growing problem before lockdown but it has certainly grown since.

Action was desperately needed and will always be welcome.

What we have to also admit is that we won’t solve this in a month. It needs a long-term plan with officials from right across the city and in every sector.

It is no good just leaving it to the police to move addicts and beggars on because they will be right back, as soon as they can. We need to give them help, break that cycle and, in doing so, allow our city centre to flourish without fear.