A BID to tackle begging on the streets of Leamington is in the running for a national policing award.
Operation Redgate, a Warwickshire Police community initiative, has been selected as a finalist in The Tilley Awards which will be announced on March 28. The national problem solving award highlights multi-agency projects which have had success in tackling community issues.
Operation Redgate was set up in 2013 following concerns at the number of beggars on the town centre’s streets. It came after previous enforcement action was deemed not to be addressing associated problems such as drug and alcohol addiction.
Police recognised the need to work with various partner agencies to have a longer term impact, so teamed-up with Warwick District Council, the Salvation Army Way Ahead Project, P3 (People Potential Possibilities), Helping Hands, Leamington Night Shelter, and BID Leamington.
Sgt Allison Wiggin, of Leamington Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “The project was set up to address the concerns of the community who live, work and use the shops and restaurants in Leamington town centre.
“The approach to those who beg is stepped, initially trying to get an understanding of their needs and work with our partners to address these, before any prosecutions start, and as a result we’ve managed to help some very vulnerable people.
“I am delighted that hard work by the team and our external partners has made it to the finals and that approach has been recognised by problem solving experts in the UK.”
Yvonne Mckinnon, Salvation Army project manager, said the charity’s homeless project in the town saw beggars on a daily basis.
She added: “Four years ago it was recognised there was a problem in Leamington and something needed to be done. The homeless sectors along with the police, council and local drugs services started a monthly meeting to work together to try and find a solution.
“We worked together to decide who was the best person to take the lead on each individual, an action plan would then be put together and the lead would try and get the individual to engage with them and access whatever services was needed for them. It can take a while for an individual to make that decision but we work with them to build up trust, self esteem, and self worth with the hope of them believing that they too can live a normal fulfilling life and become drug/alcohol free.”
Henry Webster, P3 service co-ordinator, said the project had helped see beggars as people.
He added: “P3 offer housing-related support but realise the issues of homelessness, rough sleeping and begging are far more complex than just finding people accommodation.
“Our partnership with Warwickshire Police and other local agencies has ensured that, as a community, we are approaching vulnerable people as individuals, allowing each person to address their needs and receive the right support to get their lives back on track.”
Stephanie Kerr, BID Leamington executive director, recognised the project was ongoing project but thanked police for their leadership and support to date.
She added: “As recognised by this award, this level of care and focus has produced positive outcomes for individuals and importantly, also avoids pushing the issue to another place”
Warwick District Council’s head of health and community protection, Marianne Rolfe, said: “Operation Redgate does not rely on enforcement alone but encompasses support and assistance for those who need it resulting in more effective use of resources and a positive outcome for all concerned.”