Tourists flock to 'booming' seaside town but stay away after dark over safety fears

Guy Smith, 53, is former independent councillor for the Northstead Ward
-Credit: (Image: (Image: Andy Commins))

Scarborough, the bustling seaside gem, is teeming with visitors eager to soak up its coastal charm. Yet, despite the town's allure and a surge in tourism, a sense of unease descends as dusk falls over the resort.

During my visit to this renowned North Yorkshire destination, it's clear that Scarborough is on an upswing. The town buzzes with excitement, particularly noticeable on a day when two major concerts are taking place, drawing crowds for pop sensation Anne-Marie and Richard Hawley, the celebrated frontman of The Longpigs.

However, beneath the surface of this tourist revival, there's a palpable tension. Locals and tourists alike voice their worries about the nighttime vibe, citing alcohol abuse, aggressive begging, and homelessness as factors contributing to an intimidating atmosphere.

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Strolling through a central park, the sight of a man guzzling red wine straight from the bottle is stark against the backdrop of police sirens wailing along the main thoroughfare.

The local constabulary acknowledges the issues, implementing measures such as a street drinking prohibition to combat crime in the town centre, reports the Express.

Yet, the current crime statistics in Scarborough paint a grim picture, standing at 34 percent above the average for Yorkshire and The Humber, and a staggering 74 percent higher than the combined figure for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Among the visitors is Diane Sycamore, 53, hailing from Pontefract, who has experience working in a homeless shelter. She, alongside her 49 year old partner who chose to remain unnamed, came to enjoy the Hawley concert.

"We have been here lots of times before - we also visit Whitby and do both," Diane shares, reflecting on her frequent visits. "It seems to be quite deprived. I think in the town centre itself there's a lot of social issues."

"Housing is an issue as you do see quite a lot of homelessness - it would be good to get people off the streets."

A local man expressed his concern that those unfamiliar with Scarborough "might not return" due to unexpected issues, and he feels the town becomes "it seems a bit more on edge."

at night. Diane concurred, admitting she wouldn't venture out alone after dark as she'd feel "a bit unsafe".

Joanne Sullivan, 47, from Acklam in Middlesbrough, which is approximately an hour and a half's drive away, was visiting the town for the Anne-Marie concert.

She commented: "We do come here very often - everything is central and I just like it. But we have noticed a few beggars and homeless people - but that seems to be everywhere now. I don't think I would feel comfortable walking around at night."

Local resident Anne Dales, 67, who is retired, originally hails from nearby Driffield. She plans to move back there as soon as possible with her daughter Helen, 32, who is currently unemployed.

They have resided in Scarborough for 11 years.

Anne shared: "We thought there would be job prospects, but there hasn't been a lot. I wouldn't say that we have enjoyed living here."

"No I wouldn't feel comfortable [at night] you have got a lot of people swearing and looking for fights."

Scarborough resident David Wharton, 62, who is married to Justine, 57, lives on the South Cliff. He works at Tesco on the checkout and trolleys in the town centre.

He has noticed an uptick in shop thefts at the town centre store.

He expressed: "Scarborough is up there as being one of the top destinations. I don't think I could live anywhere else. It's in our blood."

However, he also noted: "For a small town it can be a bit dangerous. The main issue is alcohol and drugs."

David mentioned that shoplifters often operate in groups.

"We can't touch them - we have to get security guards. It's nationwide but I have seen an increase," David added.

Jonathan Thompson, 45, who runs The Vintage Window, was born in the town and has been running his business for seven years. He is married to Faye, 40, and they have two children aged 10 and 8.

He commented: "Scarborough is the end of the line - you have to come to Scarborough, you're not passing through. A lot of people who end up here are in a bad way."

"There is more drinking in the town centre but the rest of Scarborough is quite good."

"The town centre is suffering - the cheap flats are in the town centre. The landlords are happy to take benefits and put anyone in there."

He pointed out that some properties become like "doss houses" due to the lack of social housing.

Guy Smith, 53, a former independent councillor for the Northstead Ward and previous owner of a seafront donkey ride business, said the town centre can be "intimidating" for some and that people might "feel a bit nervous" about venturing into town at night. However, he believes that the best parts of the town are "the architecture, the heritage and re-living childhood memories".

Louis Stringer, 37, who works at Mick Grime Shellfish on the seafront and has a family living in the town, expressed his concerns about the rising crime rate. He stated: "Scarborough used to be a nice, thriving town but now crime is going up. Knife crime has gone up."

He added that he wouldn't feel comfortable letting his teenagers out in the town centre at night due to the crime rate.

Lachlan Bradley, 23, an employee at the neighbouring Pier Snack Bar and Grill, shared similar sentiments. He said: "Some bits are run down. Bits are decaying. There are less people since it had its heyday."

He also mentioned that while it's not as bad as some people say, there are areas where he wouldn't walk alone.

He added: "I know some bad characters no matter what the time of day."

A woman who owns the Topical Print shop, who wished to remain anonymous, recounted her experience with a stalker. She said: "I had a homeless stalker. He came inside asking for T-Shirts."

After doing her due diligence and finding out his company didn't exist, she had to involve the police four times to get rid of him.

She warned: "They said be very, very careful as he can be very, very aggressive. To somebody else it could be quite frightening."

However, not everyone shares these negative views. Mike Crofts, 64, and his wife Val, 63, from Barnsley, are huge fans of Scarborough.

They enjoy walking along the coast, visiting the revived Italian Gardens and Peasholm Park.

Mike remarked: "Some of the town centre shopping area - a lot of it is past its best but you only have to look up at the architecture and it's gorgeous."

Caroline Bowne, 60, who runs the Antique and Collections Centre and has been a resident since her teenage years, shared: "I think Scarborough is on the up. There are a lot of holiday makers and day trippers. I love it. It's absolutely beautiful."

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police stated: "North Yorkshire Police works collaboratively with North Yorkshire Council in Scarborough town to combat crime and disorder and to make it a safe space for residents, businesses and visitors alike."

They added: "The night-time economy is well-managed by licensed premises thanks to the collective efforts of Licensing departments within both the police and council working alongside the Scarborough Neighbourhood Policing Team."

Detailing their strategies, they continued: "We have a variety of operations in place around prevention and early intervention. These include Operation Vigilant which involves specialist behaviour detection techniques to identify those who pose harm to woman and girls, and 'hotspot' policing patrols using intelligence to clamp down on anti-social behaviour."

The spokesperson also mentioned: "We also have Operation Culture focusing on street drinkers which is significant concern in our community."

Concluding, they said: "When necessary, we do utilise dispersal powers to quickly deal with arising anti-social behaviour and disorder."

"Importantly, our teams effectively engage with the public when out on patrol, via social media and though our community messaging service, providing guidance of how to have a safe and enjoyable night out in Scarborough."

Edinburgh Live has reached out to North Yorkshire Council for their response.