The decision by the city council to organise security patrols to prevent rough sleeping in St Peter’s Arcade in the city centre is a controversial one.
It has been ridiculed on social media and the cost – more than £400 a day – has been greeted with surprise by some.
But we must also recognise the council’s dilemma – rubbish had been left in the arcade and discarded needles found.
This represents a danger to the public using the arcade and taking no action might have left the council exposed if a member of the public or a child had, for example, walked on a needle.
There’s no denying that action needed to be taken to prevent any possible accident of this kind. However, the main concern about the security guards being posted is that they are actually powerless to stop rough sleepers using the arcade.
They were there to prevent ‘anti-social behaviour’ and give advice to rough sleepers about facilities and alternatives available.
How easy it would be for someone sleeping in the arcade to then access any of that support is another question. Why the issue is important enough to require such action for 19 days over the festive season as opposed to all year round is another one.
Given that they were unable to prevent people sleeping in the arcade it seems security guards, as opposed to outreach workers and or cleaners to actually support those in need and clear any rubbish away, is not an effective way to tackle the concerns or help those in need.
To coin a phrase... employing security staff just seems like a sledgehammer to crack a nut - with little or no effect on the nut!