Local resident Jade contacted me recently to bring her petition to my attention; she's asking people to support her efforts to highlight the problem of anti-social behaviour in New Butt Lane North. This little stretch of lane is the bit that runs around the back of the Paddy Power between Reginald Road and Hales Street, and is being treated as a (very) public toilet by the groups of people who hang around on the corner.
Jade is a resident of the lane, and as she explained in her email, she is not normally the campaigning type. "To be honest I was not going to start a petition or write any letters even though I was beginning to get very frustrated with it. I changed my mind though when I saw a woman with her knickers round her ankles crouched down in broad daylight - doing her business! Very upsetting especially with kids running around after school!"
She has set up a petition which she is asking people to sign, to show their support for her campaign.
She has also written to Boris Johnson and Mayor Steve about it, and recently received a response from the neighbourhood community safety service on the latter's behalf, explaining the steps the council is taking to address the problem, which it believes is due to the groups of street drinkers using the lane.
"Last year, the Safer Lewisham Partnership introduced a Designated Public Place Order (DPPO) across the whole of the borough. The DPPO gives the Police and other accredited officers powers to help them crack down on drinkers who disturb and intimidate other residents through their anti-social behaviour. The order does not ban drinking in public places but enables police officers to ask people to stop drinking where they are causing anti-social behaviour, nuisance or annoyance. In addition an Officer has the power to ask that person to surrender the alcohol and any other opened or sealed container in their possession.
The DPPO can now be used in tandem with Police Dispersal powers that allow Police Officers to disperse individuals causing alcohol related disorder from a particular area for up to 48 hours. If the individual returns to the area within this time they will be arrested. The enforcement of these dispersal orders will begin shortly and it’s hoped this will have a significant impact on the drinking habits of the problematic drinkers in the High Street area.
Officers from the Council’s Neighbourhood Community Safety Service are gathering statements from local businesses, residents and visitors to the area about the impact of the problem on the community. We are already aware of some of the key individuals that are causing alcohol related anti-social behaviour and the intention is to target these people using various agencies such as the Council’s Drug and Alcohol Action Team so that we can look at addressing their behaviour and offer the opportunity to sign up to treatment services.
Of course, enforcement does remain a consideration and the partnership will continue to work together in seeking Anti Social Behaviour Orders, where appropriate, against prolific drinkers in order to ban them from the area and prevent further alcohol related disorder.
A further action from the Safer Lewisham Partnership will be the introduction of Responsible Retailer Agreements with off licenses in the High Street. These will encourage the responsible sale of alcohol and remind retailers of their duty not to sell to those already intoxicated or to those individuals who are likely to cause alcohol related disorder outside their premises.
Finally, I’d like to tell you about a new scheme being introduced by the Council called The Deptford High Street Charter. This scheme seeks to encourage local businesses to sign up to a commitment of working with the Council and Police to improve the safety and environment of the High Street and the surrounding area. The Charter outlines what the Council and Police are doing to keep the High Street safe and tidy, and asks businesses to pledge their commitment to reporting crime, anti social behaviour and environmental issues such as fly-tipping and poorly disposed waste (anonymously if preferred)."
Some of this backs up the 'zero tolerance' approach witnessed by Crosswhatfields in recent weeks and is a welcome step; whether it will be effective in the long-term is another matter. Enforcement cannot be carried out 24/7 and even if it was, the problem would simply move elsewhere.
Is it time for a more practical solution - pop-up urinals as seen elsewhere in the UK?
It's obvious that the presence of groups of street drinkers in this location is exacerbating the issue, but in my experience they are not exclusively the problem.
I also live close to the high street, on a main walking route for shoppers, and regularly witness individuals urinating at the side of the street (in the middle of the day) as if this was something normal and acceptable. They are often in full view of a block of 20 flats. These are not street drinkers, they are just selfish individuals who can't be arsed to walk to the public toilets or wait until they get home. If it was down to me I would have them flogged publicly and made to stand where they have urinated for at least 24 hours.
But until I'm voted into power on this ticket, perhaps you would consider showing your support for Jade's petition; while heartened by the response from the council she would still like to keep it going to demonstrate that other local people support her efforts.