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Police resume fight against those 'responsible' for rough sleeping in Croydon

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POLICE in Croydon will today resume an operation to "target those responsible" for rough sleeping and begging. 

The Met said it officers will be concentrating on "engaging, disrupting and deterring" people responsible for this "behaviour" and would make arrests and issue Antisocial Behaviour Orders (Asbos) "where appropriate". 

It follows an identical crackdown in January this year during which police said they would take action against those who "commit" rough sleeping.

Figures published earlier this month show the number of people sleeping rough in Croydon has increased significantly in recent years, from 25 in 2010/11 to 155 in 2013/14.

Scotland Yard said the officers would be targeting six "hotspots" across London: Westminster, Camden, Croydon, Islington, Lambeth and Southwark. 

The joint operation involves the police, local authorities and other agencies. 

The Met said Operation Encompass has led to several arrests and antisocial behaviour notices, though it has not provided specific figures.

A statement published today (Friday) said the initiative "highlights work that is carried out daily by officers and partners who proactively patrol hotspot areas to speak with those who sleep rough and beg from members of the public".

Rough sleepers would be offered "assistance through support services and arrests are made where offences are identified". 

A spokesman added: "Whilst good progress has been made, these issues persist and all partnership agencies are committed to dealing with this matter in a robust and balanced way."

Commander Alison Newcomb, leading the operation, said: "Operation Encompass has demonstrated the benefits of a multi-agency approach aimed to reduce the number of those sleeping rough and begging, which can lead to associated anti-social behaviour and crime.

"Officers work with immigration partners to utilise legislation launched in January regarding removal from the UK, where the grounds exist. 

"They also make referrals to outreach projects in order to help vulnerable individuals break the cycle they find themselves in when sleeping rough, while taking affirmative action against persistent offenders who break the law or cause intimidation to passing members of public.

"Begging will not be tolerated in the City of Westminster or any other London borough. Wherever possible people begging will be arrested and ASBOs sought where appropriate.

"Our activity today is ongoing with our partners who are committed and recognise that it is an issue that does not go away in a single operational action and requires a continued and consistent approach from all agencies and partners."

Today's statement appears to suggest that the operation will focus on EU nationals who "abuse free movement rights for fraud". In January the authorities were given more power to remove those people from the UK. 

James Brokenshire, immigration and security minister, said: "Operations such as these demonstrate that abuse of free movement will not be tolerated, and we will take action to remove perpetrators from the UK. We work regularly with police, local authorities and other agencies to identify and deal with EU nationals who are not abiding by the rules."

Croydon Council was criticised last year after it emerged it had planned to remove a soup kitchen from a town centre park. The idea - put forward by the police - was eventually shelved

Chief Superintendent David Musker, then Croydon borough commander, later said that people used the soup kitchen in Queen's Gardens so they could spend money on alcohol instead

Police resume fight against those 'responsible' for rough sleeping in Croydon


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