New base set-up to tackle crime problems plaguing Newcastle City Centre

Launch of the City Safe project
Launch of the City Safe project -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

A new base has been set-up to tackle the problems that plague Newcastle city centre daily.

Northumbria Police officers will now work in the same office as staff from Newcastle City Council and business improvement company NE1 in a bid to work together to stamp out the crime and antis-social behaviour begging and rough sleeping can bring to the city streets.

City Safe is a new initiative which will see the three agencies working together from a new office in Newcastle City Library. The project will seek to tackle crime and reduce anti-social behaviour whilst providing increased access to support services for vulnerable people.

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Northumbria Police's Newcastle Area Commander, Chief Supt Barrie Joisce, said the new set-up could help tackle some of the city's most deep-routed problems.

"We have got issues to do with our street community and the related issues to do with begging and homelessness that can lead to acquisitive crime and serious violence," he said. "The purpose of the initiative is that while there will be an enforcement element for repeat offenders, City Safe will help get access to support services to help tackle vulnerability, to make sure these people get the support they need to deal with these complex needs.

Chief Supt Barrie Joisce
Chief Supt Barrie Joisce -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

"We accept that there are a number of individuals who do unfortunately come into the city centre to carry out offences, which is something we will simply not tolerate.

“There is some exceptional work ongoing in the city to deal with these issues, but also evidence that this type of disorder is impacting on how safe members of the public feel.

“Through City Safe, we will work closely together with partners to share intelligence and use our full range of services, tactics and legislation to crack down on those intent on causing disruption."

Tariq Albassam NE1
Tariq Albassam of NE1 -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

The City Safe team is made up of police officers who will take an enforcement role, NE1 Street Rangers who will work with businesses and the public to identify key issues, and focussed deterrence workers who will work with young people in the city.

Support service providers, including drug and alcohol specialists, will look to tackle the root causes of offending behaviour whilst also supporting vulnerable people. The project will also see increased visibility within the city with uniformed patrols supported by plain clothes officers to target repeat and prolific offenders.

There will also be an increased police presence at transport access points including bus interchanges and Metro stations to deter offenders from travelling into the city.

Coun Paula Maines
Coun Paula Maines -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

“The project will also see our policing presence in the city centre increased", Chief Supt Joisce continued. "A total of eight officers working as part of the project will be tasked with problem solving, tackling crime and anti-social behaviour hotspots, as well as targeting a cohort of key individuals and tackling the causes of their offending. The team will meet each morning to discuss priorities for the day and put resources into those hotspot locations.

“By identifying issues earlier we can help prevent incidents from occurring.

“For those who need support, should they have found themselves homeless or addicted to drugs or alcohol, police officers, drug and alcohol support workers as well as those who can assist with housing issues, will work together, so that we can ensure intervention and support.

“We and our partners are committed to helping those in need, but make no mistake, we will be taking robust action using the full range of our powers against those who are intent on carrying out crime in our city.”

Tariq Albassam, who is head of Operations at NE1 said problems caused by begging and rough sleeping were the number one concern among shopper and businesses.

But he told the Chronicle that he hoped getting everyone working together under the same roof would help find solutions.

"We have done a survey with businesses and residents and that is one of the key issues that came out of that survey. It's begging, shoplifting, homelessness and street drinking. A lot of these are linked to other crime in the city," he said. "Bringing the team everyone together to work together as a team is going to make a huge difference.

"All of the issues can't be tackled by one organisation. They are really complex issues."

And Coun Paula Maines, cabinet member for a resilient city at Newcastle City Council, added: “The safety of our communities is a top priority for us so I’m delighted we are launching the new hub at City Library. The project is all about listening to the concerns of residents and businesses so partners can take action and tackle the issues that matter most to them.

“It also gives us a platform to build on the extensive work we already do with partners to keep our communities safe and ensure we continue to support vulnerable people in the best way we can.

“The new hub is a great example of how partners can work together to help the city to thrive and ensure it remains the safe and welcoming place we all want it to be.”