HEREFORD’S cops have launched an operation to “take back the streets”, clearing the city centre of drunks and drug users, and getting them the help they need.
Operation Castlemain was officially launched this week – its name bearing a striking resemblance to the XXXX lager – although it has been in action for around two weeks already.
Over that time the officers working on the operation have averaged an arrest a day for anti-social offences like begging or being drunk and disorderly in a public place.
“Enough is enough,” said sergeant Duncan Reynolds.
“We were beginning to notice a rise in anti-social behaviour – and it was time to take back the streets.”
Police have cracked down on hotspots – areas like the Castle Green, the nearby duck pond and High Town – where persistent offending occurs, and where habitual offenders congregate.
Police then work with other agencies, including the street pastors and rehabilitation services, to help those people get the advice and support they need.
Around 15 people are responsible for much of the anti-social crime in the city centre, all of whom are UK nationals.
Increased manpower allows those on patrol to spend time observing and working with those targets, and where necessary taking action to ensure that the streets feel safe for everyone.
The hope is that success working with this small number of regular offenders could have a large impact on the feeling of High Town, and the operation has been backed by Hereford mayor Len Tawn.
It is also expected to impact on other crimes such as shop lifting that are often associated with habitual drug users.
Offenders can be hit with CRASBOs (criminal anti-social behaviour orders) that dictate where they can go and place restrictions on their drinking in public.
Cross-agency work will then step in to try and ensure the offender deals with the long-term problem, and does not simply move on to another part of town.
Last week police recommended that the conditions of a St Owen Street newsagent’s license were changed after serving alcohol to people known to be involved in anti-social behaviour and nuisance in the city centre.
As part of those recommendations, police called for a ban on fortified lagers (above 6.5 per cent) and the sale of single cans and three-litre bottles of alcohol.
For many repeat offenders those super-strong lagers will serve as ‘breakfast’, before they go to the church to have their actual meal, added sergeant Reynolds.
For updates on the operation's success, search for #OpCastlemain on Twitter.