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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Stop & Search and Poncho

June 01 2009
Poncho is picking up steam again Operation Poncho, the controversial practice of washing down areas where people are sleeping in the middle of the night, appears to be building up steam in the City of London. In just one week in June, an area of Salisbury Square used by rough sleepers was hosed down four times by council workers, with support from police. Peter Pickles, who occasionally sleeps out in Salisbury Square, said: "[Operation Poncho] had died down a bit over the last few months, but recently it's been happening more, until we had four wash-downs last week. They spray the area with cold water, so it doesn't clean anything - they're just trying to get people moved on". Mr Pickles said he had noticed differences in the operation of Poncho this time: "Before, police would do a welfare check and give us a 'Stop and Search' form every time they woke us up. Now they don't take any information or give us a form, so we can't prove how often this is happening. I feel like I'd have to go to court to get someone to hear about it". The number of police officers being used in Poncho operations has also increased, according to Mr Pickles, who claimed there were now as many as three police officers on every wash-down. "It's absurd," he said. "When there are two council workers washing a street with cold water, and three policemen watching them do it, they're obviously just trying to get rid of us". A City of London Police spokesman to us: "City of London Police is working with partner agencies to promote community safety within the Square Mile and explain to people that it is not safe to be sleeping out on the streets. "Officers work alongside City of London Corporation staff and the homeless charity Broadway ‚Äö?Ñ?¨ which provides people sleeping rough with access to support services to help them change their lives and move them away from the streets. City of London Police is also responding to community concern about people sleeping rough and the rubbish/sanitation problems related to that." Why this has to happen in the early hours still remains a question. You can see video footage of Operation Poncho on our website. * This being the age of social networking, there is a Facebook page to protest this practice ‚Äö?Ñ?¨ Stop the Washdown.
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