Police in York are set to be granted more power to remove alcohol from people within the city walls amid a rise in anti-social behaviour post-lockdown.
The council’s executive member for housing and safer neighbourhoods, Denise Craghill, will next week consider whether a public space protection order (PSPO) should be implemented in the city centre.
The powers would allow the police to seize alcohol from people if they believe their drinking is linked to anti-social behaviour.
Breaching a PSPO is a criminal offence which can result in an on-the-spot fine or even a court appearance.
According to a council report, anti-social behaviour levels in the city centre remained low while restrictions were in place, but rose again once they were lifted.
It adds: “With the imminent lifting of all restrictions, combined with an increase in visits to UK destinations whilst some travel restrictions on foreign travel remain, it is anticipated that anti-social behaviour levels will increase over the spring/summer period 2022.”
Of the 1,044 anti-social behaviour incidents in 2021, 1,030 were alcohol related.
York is a popular destination for stag and hen parties, leading to tensions between residents and locals, and visitors keen to make the most of the city’s bars and pubs within the small confines of the city walls.
There is also a proposal to introduce a PSPO at Union Terrace and Clarence Street gardens, which is known as a hotspot for drinking and anti-social behaviour. Council officers note that there is a homeless hostel – York Changing Lives – next to the Union Terrace car park.
This PSPO would also give police the power to remove groups of three or more people who are causing trouble.
Drinkers and families
David Skaith, city centre business owner and chair of York Retail Forum, said anti-social behaviour was mainly a problem in certain hotspot areas.
He added: “The issue York has always had is bars are mixed into the same areas as retailers so there’s always been a big cross over from drinkers – drinking responsibly or not – and families and people out shopping and visiting the sights of York.
“From a city centre point of view we all want to see a clean, safe environment that people, especially families and locals, feel welcomed in.
“It’s also important to get to the root cause of the situation. Just handing out ASBOs and moving people on to other areas isn’t going to stop the problem. It’s a wider community – school, parent – issue that needs all parties engaged in stopping this behaviour.”
Guildhall ward councillor Fiona Fitzpatrick said she would be seeking further clarification on how the PSPO would work so that the issue was not just pushed somewhere else.
She said that government support to local authorities for things like rehabilitation was also required.
Coun Fitpatrick added: ”We still need, underneath all of this, to be looking at the root causes of the problem.”
If approved by Coun Craghill at a decision session on Thursday a four-week consultation will begin before any changes are made.
A PSPO around much of the city centre and the station entrance had been in place until 2019, but was not renewed due to the start of the pandemic shortly after.