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Dawn sweeps tackle street sleepers

October 06 2011
Durham police chiefs claim rough sleeping leads to shoplifting and aggressive begging


City authorities in Durham and Chester are searching for rough sleepers and trying to move them off the streets, again using accusations that they are adding to crime in the centre of these cities.

In Durham, police officers and staff of Durham Action On Single Housing (DASH) have begun conducting once-weekly sweeps of the city centre at dawn looking for homeless people, according to the Northern Echo.

The police have said that these dawn sweeps are an attempt to locate the city’s homeless in order to offer them help and, if necessary, move them off the street. But the sweeps may also be in response to claims that homeless people are linked to city centre crime.

According to the Northern Echo, police chiefs have claimed that rough sleeping leads to shoplifting and aggressive begging.

Paul Anderson, Neighbourhood Inspector for Durham, told the Northern Echo that people rough sleeping did have a “knock on effect” on shops. However, he said the police did not want to persecute homeless people.

“It’s not about the symptoms but dealing with the cause of the problem,” he said. “And if we can point people in the right direction, it will benefit everyone.”

Sean McDonnell, senior manager of DASH, also said that the street sweeps were intended to help, rather than persecute, the homeless.

“We want to ensure help and support is available for these people,” he said. “This initiative [..] is intended to help and not to victimise them.”

Meanwhile, in Chester, it has been announced that anyone trying to sleep on the street in Castle Street, Shipgate Street or St Mary’s Centre will be moved on.

This measure is an attempt to tackle vandalism and anti-social behaviour occurring in these areas, activity which people are claiming is connected to rough sleeping. “These areas were heavily frequented by homeless people and a substantial amount of damage had been caused,” the Community safety warden Neil Denby told a City Community Forum meeting.