‘Non-homeless’ people accused of begging in Eastbourne town centre

Street drinkers have been accused of begging in Eastbourne town centre – by the town’s genuine homeless community.

Monday, 20th January 2020, 3:02 pm
Updated Monday, 20th January 2020, 3:33 pm
Scott Franklin-Lester SUS-200120-144103001

Eastbourne Police say officers were called to an incident recently in Terminus Road after it was reported by two homeless people that groups of non-homeless people were turning up, drinking and becoming anti-social.

The statement from police comes after a number of members of the public believed officers were moving on people sleeping rough on the street which, says the force, was not the case.

PC Scott Franklin-Lester, the beat officer for Eastbourne town centre for 16 years, responded to the call concerning some members of the street community and moved the group on away from the immediate area.

He said, “The incident was described by members of the public who witnessed it as a group of homeless people being moved on. In actual fact, only two of that group are actually homeless at this time. The complaint I was dealing with came from those two homeless people who had been sat at a location in the town all day. They know what is expected of their behaviour and we talk most days.

“The genuinely homeless were complaining that groups of non-homeless people were turning up, drinking and begging and becoming anti-social. This was very near to where children’s Christmas rides were and they were concerned about the effect on the children.

“The two homeless males agreed to walk to one of the support centres available to them which allowed me to move on those begging and drinking in breach of the PSPO. The two homeless males were later able to come back to the same location and settle without fear of reprisals.

“I have policed the town for a long time and will deal robustly with complaints of anti-social behaviour. I regularly get complaints about people who are committing offences but also about people who are doing nothing wrong. I try to deal fairly with anyone. My aim is to try to keep a nice environment for all.”

Eastbourne Police says one member of the group that was moved on was arrested on suspicion of common assault and given bail conditions not to enter a defined area including Eastbourne town centre, not to sit on the pavement and beg or greet passers-by within Sussex, and not to cause any person in a public place to be harassed, alarmed or distressed.

The incident came as Sussex Police said officers in Eastbourne would continue to work to tackle anti-social behaviour in the town centre.

The local policing team has recently increased in numbers, with additional PCSOs and prevention officers recruited.

This, says police, means the work the force does in the town centre and across Eastbourne is focused once again on prevention, engagement and visible policing.

Officers have various powers at their disposal to tackle problems in the town centre, including Eastbourne council’s Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) which prohibits specified things being done within the restricted area, such as consuming alcohol.

Police say it’s important to note this is not intended to be a blanket drinking ban, but a preventative tool to offer control around anti-social behaviour linked to alcohol consumption.

Officers can also request use of powers under Section 35 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which allows police to disperse individuals in order to remove or reduce the likelihood of members of the public becoming harassed, alarmed or distressed or the occurrence of crime or disorder in a particular area.

But sometimes, say police, simply communicating with those involved can prove effective too.

PC Franklin-Lester said, “I have worked with the street community for 16 years, helping the vulnerable who are three times more likely to be a victim of crime than you or I. I link in with the Salvation Army, Matthew 25 Mission and several partnership agencies to try to help them and ensure the most vulnerable among them are protected.

“That said I am a police officer and the enforcement comes down to us. I am able to deal robustly with those committing offences and anti-social acts so that the wider community is not adversely affected.

“The lives of those in the street community are complex and difficult and after 27 years of policing I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I try to be out and about and ensure where possible the community can exist in harmony.

“I would invite anyone to take advantage of the Sussex Police ride-along scheme and come and see for yourselves how we police, and the challenges that we and the communities face. Alternatively, just stop me in the town and say hi - I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.”