Following the uproar over the council’s attempt to implement a Public Space Protection Order two years ago, Hackney Council has now launched a consultation on its approach to dealing with anti-social behaviour (ASB).
The consultation, which will feed into the borough’s public space anti-social behaviour strategy, comes as the council’s own enforcement service is being restructured to create a greater presence on the streets.
The Town Hall is to boost the number of enforcement officers from nine to 24 – an increase of over 260 per cent.
The council is asking for the views of residents on specific kinds of anti-social behaviour “where there may be a link to support needs, such as substance misuse or mental health issues.”
Town Hall bosses say resolving them “can often prove challenging to address without causing unintended harm.”
Critics of a previous attempt to clamp down on ASB claimed the council was seeking to criminalising rough sleepers, causing an eventual u-turn.
The council says its current approach in these circumstances is to offer support to help people access the help they need. It says enforcement action is taken as a last resort, where people have refused the council’s help and continue to cause anti-social behaviour.
Cllr Caroline Selman, Hackney Council’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “We want to do all we can to ensure that residents do not have to suffer the misery that anti-social behaviour can cause, which can have a significant impact on their quality of life.
“Sometimes those who commit anti-social behaviour have support needs. This is particularly the case with behaviour such as begging, some cases of anti-social street drinking, urination or defecation and anti-social behaviour associated with sex work.
“In these cases it’s important that we get the balance right between enforcement and support to ensure we are responding in a way that is both effective and fair. Addressing the underlying causes of ASB also means that we can be more effective in protecting residents from ASB in the long-term.
“We already think carefully about this but we think it is important to involve residents in that discussion, to hear their views and learn from their experience and perspectives, and the media also plays a very important role in the democratic conversation.”
As part of the consultation, residents are asked about Hackney’s approach to anti-social behaviour, and whether they would support the council setting up a redirected giving scheme, where residents could donate to a fund that gives grants to support vulnerable people who are begging in Hackney.
Selman said the Town Hall would look at similar schemes set up by other local authorities, some of which have proved controversial, to make sure its own version “does not demonise people”.
The consultation closes on 24 September.
Have your say at consultation.hackney.gov.uk or call 020 8356 3170 to request a paper copy.