Traders in Sheffield city centre demand action over street drinkers

Devonshire Green, Sheffield.
Devonshire Green, Sheffield.
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Shopkeepers near Devonshire Green in the city centre are calling on the police and Sheffield Council to tackle the growing street drinking nuisance they claim is ruining the area.

Traders on nearby Devonshire Street say a needle exchange, soup kitchen and two 24-hour off-licences nearby are making the problem worse – and are calling for the authorities to take action.

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There is a needle exchange in Arundel Street and two 24-hour off-licences in West Street. There is also a soup van which visits Eldon Street three days a week.

One trader who declined to be named, said: “Street drinkers have everything they need around here – there’s a place for free food, another for free needles and a very cheap off-licence where you can get a can of super-strength beer for 79p. 
“I see groups of 30 to 40 drinkers gathering at a time. We need more police patrols.”

Another Division Street shop owner said: “There are needles outside the back door. I’m afraid to wear flip-flops in the summer because of needles.

“Whoever is giving them free food is bringing them into a heavily populated area. 
“It’s a nice thing to do, but can’t they do it in an area where people aren’t trying to make a living?”

Mark Arber, project manager at Arber House Shopmobility in Eldon Street, said: “We have had continued problems with street drinkers.I have seen them drop their trousers in the car park in broad daylight, they don’t care.

“What do you do about it? If you move them on they are going to gather together. It will just be someone else’s problem.

“The ambassadors in the city centre are brilliant, but they are not around as much because of cuts.”

Andrew Goodison, of Bargain Beers and Premier off-licence, both West Street, said: “We have a blacklist of people we won’t serve and that is communicated to all staff.

“We try to work with the police and the council rather than against them.

“It needs everybody to work together.

“Some drinkers hide around the corner and ask people to go in and buy them beer – how do we police that?”

He said staff had been threatened by street drinkers when they refused to serve them.

One worker in a West Street off-licence said the store did not sell super-strength beer or cider and does not serve anyone who is drunk.

Shop owners want to set up more meetings with police and the council to tackle the issue.

Sol Smith, of Balance on Devonshire Street, said: “We had a meeting with Coun Jillian Creasy, trying to look at the different organisations and groups – community support officers, police, local ambassadors, and policy making to do with licensing.

“A lot of positive points were made, a lot of ideas looked at, but if anything the problem has been worse.

“I think it needs dedicated, constant attention to move people on.

“We’re looking for inspiration or ideas to try to fix this problem.”

Sergeant Naomi Saxton, of South Yorkshire Police, told a Sheffield City Centre Residents Action Group meeting dedicated patrols had been put on over the summer.

However, she said people using legal highs was also becoming a problem and existing powers available to tackle alcohol-related anti-social behaviour were not applicable.

She said the police licensing department had written to every off-licence licensee in the city centre and invited them to a meeting with a view to setting up a forum to tackle the issue.