THE leader of Bridgwater Town Council has called for a 'multi-agency approach' to tackle the ongoing homelessness problem in the town centre.

Cllr Brian Smedley (Westover) has asked for an immediate meeting with the new chief of police, as well as requesting the matter to be brought up at the next Police Forum meeting.

Cllr Smedley also highlighted a rise in anti social behaviour by street drinkers to the force.

He said the response has been swift and detailed, and includes arrests, increased patrols, a more visible presence and use of ASB legislation.

There is also reportedly the assurance of co-operation with social services, housing and other community teams.

Sgt Kat Forrest, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: “Thank you for highlighting the concerns, I’d like to reassure you that after my meeting with the Mayor, Town Wardens, VRP (Violence Reduction Partnership) and the PCC Mark Shelford we have done the following to address the issues. 

"The town centre team have issued anti-social behaviour diaries to businesses to gain a better understanding of what the perceived issue is. 

"We have dedicated town centre patrols, with the assistance of the wider neighbourhood team to be a visible presence in the town and we are in regular contact with the town wardens. 

"We use ASB legislation when grounds allow to disperse groups but there is a strict criteria that must be met, and we can not use it excessively as this would become unlawful.

"We have arrested and charged persons with public order offences, and assaults on police officers and PCSOs and two are currently awaiting sentencing.

"We continue to work closely with Rob Semple (the Town Council’s new Community Services Director)  around the potential PSPO (Public Space Protection Order) which as I understand is sat at the consultation phase.

"There is a homeless team that will engage with the homeless community and Rob has been in contact with them as well.”

Sgt Forrest agreed that at the next police forum, she would present how the police tackle anti-social behaviour.

She added: “Without identifying those responsible we are limited with our powers as to what action we can take. 

"However the two arrests recently calmed things, and we have had our officers from the mounted section carrying out high visibility in the town centre. 

"We are working behind the scenes with our anti social behaviour team to deal with the issue, but as I’m sure you can appreciate this takes time.”