A major new partnership operation has been launched in Luton town centre by police and other agencies to tidy the area up in the run-up to Christmas.
Our Luton community team will be joined by officers from other units for high visibility patrols around the town over the coming weeks as part of Operation Foresight.
The operation aims to reassure shoppers and businesses in the town centre by providing a visible police presence and engaging with the public around their concerns.
We will be joined by a host of other agencies to provide a comprehensive response to any issues affecting the town centre.
This includes Luton Council’s neighbourhood enforcement team, staff from the ResoLUTiONs drug and alcohol service and the charity NOAH Enterprise, and is supported by the Luton BID and Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye.
Chief Inspector Jamie Langwith, from the Luton community policing team, said: “This is a really important operation for us and I am delighted to have so much partnership support and buy-in for this work.
“We hear all too often from people and businesses in Luton town centre that the behaviour of a small minority can leave people feeling harassed and intimidated.
“People should be free to go about their business in peace and as police we have a key role to play in tackling things like drug use and anti-social behaviour.
“However, we also recognise that enforcement and arrests alone are not going to solve the issues. That’s why we are working closely with such a wide range of support services, to make sure we can get help to people who need it.
“The feedback we have had so far has been really positive and I am confident this work will make a big difference.”
We have already issued a number of community protection notices as part of Operation Foresight, paving the way for fines or further sanctions for those persistently engaging in anti-social behaviour.
The operation is also signposting to projects such as The Big Change project, a series of contactless donation points in the town centre where people can donate to local homeless services.
Cllr Abbas Hussain, portfolio holder responsible for Neighbourhood Services and Community Safety at Luton Council, said: "Improving our town centre is a key priority and the launch of Town Centre Masterplan earlier this year demonstrates our ambitious plans now and for the future.
“But it's not just the physical improvements - new developments, buildings and more green spaces that are part of our plan. We know we have to tackle elements that discourage people from visiting such as street drinking and begging.
“These are complex social issues which need a joined up approach from services across our town and we continue to work extremely hard with our partners in the police, Business Improvement District and third sector organisations to tackle antisocial behaviour in our town centre.
“For example, our NET officers are on patrol daily and we now have a team co-located with the police to ensure a more joined-up approach.
“Partnership working is so important to the work we are doing in this very sensitive area not only to make sure people feel safe whilst visiting the town but to help those who need our support."
Tim Archbold, chair of Luton Homeless Partnership and CEO of local homeless charity Signposts, said: "We very much welcome this additional support for our town centre, where we are all aware of the challenges Luton faces.
"Getting people off the street is not straightforward. There are many and complex reasons why people sleep, or beg, on the street. Working closely with individuals and together with our partners across the community really is the very best way to make a real difference.
"There is no denying how hard it is to walk past someone out on the street in the cold. That's why we are calling on everyone in Luton to donate to Big Change if you really want to help someone build a life away from the street.
"One hundred percent of your donations go to charities working in our town to give individuals experiencing homelessness the very best chance of making a real change in their lives."
Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye said: "Operation Foresight is the result of partnership working between Bedfordshire Police, Luton Borough Council, Luton BID and other key partners to tackle the issues of aggressive begging, drug dealing and antisocial behaviour in Luton's town centre.
"I was incredibly impressed by the work that's gone into working with local business, and the outcomes being achieved already.
"As Police and Crime Commissioner, I remain fully committed to supporting more partnership work to cut crime and its causes in Bedfordshire."