Leeds councillors looking at imposing special measures to curb street booze in Harehills

Special measures to curb alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour and crime could soon be imposed on the Harehills area of East Leeds.

Councillors on Leeds City Council’s Licensing Committee are being asked to approve the imposition of a Designated Public Place Order (DPPO), which will make it an offence for people to drink alcohol after being asked to stop drinking by police. It also gives officers the power to confiscate the drink.

A report being presented to a meeting of the committee next Tuesday (26th June) said Harehills Lane, Roundhay Road, Harehills Rd and Beckett St had seen the highest number of incidents of alcohol-related anti-social behaviour in the proposed area for the ban in recent times.

Map of proposed area – Harehills

Assaults accounted for 81% of the total number of alcohol-related crimes committed in the area during the year from 1st March 2011, it said.

The same measures were introduced in neighbouring Burmantofts in January 2011.

At the beginning of 2010 there were 14 DPPOs operating in Leeds, covering parts of Farsley, Wetherby, the city centre, Gipton, Garforth, Headingley, Pudsey, Guiseley, Horsforth, Armley, Woodhouse and Hyde Park, Yeadon, Otley and Kippax.

I don’t know if any of them have been rescinded since.

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5 Responses to Leeds councillors looking at imposing special measures to curb street booze in Harehills

  1. Paul Thomas says:

    The spread of DPPO’s is similar to that of leafleting bans (which I’ve written about on Culture Vulture). This is about what the civil liberties group the Manifesto Club refers to as the ‘hyper regulation of public space’. Increasingly, petty-minded local officials, politicians and police use a broad, vague and often subjective definition anti-social behaviour to justify clamping down on the free use of public space (generally poorer working class areas), and in this case people’s freedom to drink what they want, where and when.

    Reading the report, because of trouble on a small number of streets, and a total of 84 alcohol related incidents in 6 months, everyone in this area may be subject to having their legally bought drink – which could include ‘sealed’ purchases as you walk back from the off licence – taken off them by the police: “treating citizens like irresponsible wards of the state” (Manifesto Club, 2008).

    As you point out, it seems once in place such regulations are never rescinded. In the process, greater and greater areas of ‘public’ space is becoming state-regulated space through the use of such ‘anti-social’ legislation.

    • Hi Paul, I hadn’t thought of the similarities with leafleting, but yes, of course.

      It’s very similar too to the issue of “dispersal orders”, which have been imposed pretty regularly over the years in many of the same areas of Leeds where the DPPOs are in operation. There’s no denying, though, that the lives of local residents are sometimes made a misery by routine drunken behaviour – and that the council and police are under pressure to DO SOMETHING. Trouble is both the DPPOs and the dispersal orders can only be sticking plasters covering up a deeper wound that we as a society seem unable to treat.

  2. Paul Thomas says:

    Leeds Citizen

    I certainly think there’s a push and pull going on. On the one side we’ve had the growing tendency of the political elite over the past 15 or more years – at both national and local level – to colonise public space and our private lives; to tell us how we should live, and legislate to try socially engineer desired behaviour. On the other, we’ve seen a loss of adult authority and social solidarity that DOES leave people feeling more isolated, especially in face of youthful bad behaviour (and youth’s feeling that they can get away anything).

    My fear is that in the state constantly stepping in, and being invited in to manage civil society we end up with a less free society in which the police can, at whim, confiscate our property or disperse people. At the same time such intervention tends to undermine any sense of social solidarity as it encourages a corrosive view of wider society and encourages people to look to the state, first and foremost, rather than each other to deal every social problem.

    If the police can take our drink off us, what next will they be able to take if we step out of line – as decided by them?

    Paul

  3. Agreed. But then how does that cycle get broken? This order will presumably have been discussed by all the state-sponsored organisations representing the “community” in the area – the police’s Partners and Communities Together, the council’s Community Leadership Team and Area Committee, and heaven knows what other Safer and Stronger Communities forum that’s knocking about…and apparently no-one spoke out against the measure.

    How do the people (in Harehills or anywhere else in Leeds) who believe in “social solidarity” and sorting things out for themselves hook up? Where do they meet? And how can they make their voice heard above the machinery of the state and its partners?

  4. Paul Thomas says:

    I think your questions are very important, and they are ones I’ve thought a lot about in recent years, and to which I have no easy answers. We have a decline in social solidarity, trust and adult authority and – unsurprisingly – a rise in people’s sense of isolation and vulnerability. Which is why I wouldn’t be surprised if, as you say, no one spoke out against this measure. To do so would require precisely that sense of active and collective citizenship that needs restoring. Although the Leeds CC report doesn’t exactly indicate a demand for such a draconian measure either, or much public input.

    According to the report, consultation mainly seems to have been between the police, council departments and elected officials. ‘Further statutory consultation with the general public, relevant bodies and licences in the area has also been completed, in order to inform them of the … implications of the Order’. No objections were received to the Order, but no letters of support either. But really this is just a bureaucratic procedure to impose an order which I suspect is desired more by those public bodies than the public.

    As I say, I don’t have ready answers, in the abstract anyway, to how to restore a sense of active citizenship or solidarity. This can only really come about from people in communities coming together – probably led by a few emboldened individuals – to solve the problems they face; and would be shaped by the circumstances. But we did see instances of such solidarity just last year during the riots in London when groups of Sikh’s, Kurd’s (I think) and sections of the white working class (although predictably demonised by some) came out to verbally and literally give some of the rioters a clip round the ear, and protect their neighbourhoods and property.

    Ironically, considering their keenness to clamp down on a legal activity in public – drinking – it was the police’s failure to deal with young people committing actual criminal damage that forced those communities to take action. Nonetheless, it shows it’s not hopeless, or impossible to imagine how people could come together to deal with less serious instances of anti-social behaviour, and through that re-establish the neighbourliness and trust missing in many communities and wider society. Again, an example of this can be seen up in the post riot clean-up campaigns organised by residents in the affected areas.

    As for the Harehills DPPO itself: a table in Appendix 1 of Leeds CC report shows that in the 12 months from March 2011 to Feb 2012 there were 185 ‘alcohol related crimes’ dealt with by the police in this area. That includes 105 assaults plus various types of thefts and property damage. We have no idea to what extent alcohol was actually a cause or real problem in any of these instances, yet a blanket order is being proposed that infringes the civil liberties of everyone in that region, and under which anyone in possession of alcohol could have it taken off them without compensation, or face arrest or fine. That’s hardly seems a ‘sober’ response.

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