Editor: You’re killing our city centre by not backing shopkeepers

We have a problem with our city centre, exacerbated by a deliberate lack of action. Our leaders have chosen to turn a blind eye – desperate to avoid appearing uncaring – but all that has done is make everything worse for everyone.

Thursday, 9th September 2021, 6:46 am
Updated Thursday, 9th September 2021, 6:46 am
FILE PICTURE - A beggar on the streets of a British city. Beggars pretending to be homeless in a city suburb are pocketing up to £100 a DAY on top of their benefits, it has been revealed. See SWNS story SWMDbeggars. Conmen are posing as rough sleepers in the Bearwood area of Birmingham to scrounge cash from kind-hearted members of the public. Lowlife tricksters are targeting the up-and-coming area of the city and are embroiled in turf wars over the best 'pitches' to beg from. One councillor said some of them are coining in up to £100 a day, often to buy drugs, by preying on people's generosity. It means they are raking in £22,000 a year - more than some employees who work in the shops, bars and restaurants based in the vibrant suburb.

I’m talking about beggars, people who appear to be homeless and those who are clearly so addicted to drugs that they can see no feasible alternative.

There was a directive from the town hall for many years that the only way to appear caring was not to tackle this issue. But if anybody has ever managed to make things better by ignoring a problem, then I would like to hear from them. Politicians who are afraid to tackle issues because it looks politically incorrect would be better placed examining seriously the damage caused to the lives of people who have already been abandoned by society.

By not challenging the predicament they face, we find ourselves with many Sheffielders telling me they are too scared to go into their own city centre, business owners screaming for help from the police and desperate people pleading with courts for help to get them off the streets.

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So who is winning? Definitely not our city, our economy, our welcoming smile or those who need a roof over their head – left to steal and scrounge with little to stop them.

I have visited all of this city’s homeless charities and I know better than most that some people do not want help and, even when they do, there is no quick fix. But it is blatantly clear that more is needed to support them and in doing so make town feel safe again.

South Yorkshire Police has taken different action in different areas over the years, depending on the political will at the time. They have proved that change can come – but never here in Sheffield.

Two days of action from the police following the new chief constable’s tour of the city centre is, quite frankly, embarrassing. Star readers very clearly saw through that as a publicity stunt, more than a serious solution. I hear stories every day of customers being literally accosted and followed down main streets in broad daylight. If nobody else is going to make arrests, thank goodness one cafe owner was brave enough to step up himself. What will it take for our leaders to use the powers available to them?