Does Newport need to be tougher on anti-social behaviour?

NEWPORT, just like every other city, often faces problems with anti-social behaviour in public areas.

At a time when city centres have been hit hard by the covid pandemic and changing consumer trends – high streets face a difficult task to bring back shoppers.

The Argus has previously reported that Newport has the largest number of empty shops in the UK – so it seems our city has a huge challenge on its hands to recruit new businesses.

And issues around anti-social behaviour in the city centre pose an extra obstacle for traders trying their hardest to bring shoppers back to the high street.

Late last year, more than ten businesses on Commercial Street reported instances of break-ins, attempted break-ins and damage done to their premises.

So, are the current measures for tackling anti-social behaviour in Newport enough?

Clampdowns happening across Wales

This week, Swansea City Council announced that it would be introducing tougher measures to tackle anti-social behaviour in the city centre.

New Public Space Protection Orders came into place in the city, which include a clampdown on drug-taking, going to the toilet in public, drunkenness, so-called legal-highs, and excessive swearing – all of which you can now be fined for.

If successful, the council has plans to trial the orders in other areas of Swansea that have trouble with anti-social behaviour.

South Wales Argus: Graffiti is a common problem in Newport city centre, especially on empty shop units. Graffiti is a common problem in Newport city centre, especially on empty shop units.

You might be surprised to know that the above Public Space Protection Orders already exist in Newport city centre and the nearby Baneswell community.

The measures came into effect in December last year, meaning that police officials and certain council officials can impose them at any time they feel it is appropriate to do so.

However, despite already being in place, anti-social behaviour continues to be a major problem for the city centre.

Since February 2021, Gwent Police has recorded 538 instances of anti-social behaviour in the designated Public Space Protection Order zone – which is roughly based on the Stow Hill ward boundary.

South Wales Argus: Gwent Police officers and some council officials have the power to enforce Public Space Protection Offences. Gwent Police officers and some council officials have the power to enforce Public Space Protection Offences.

Similarly, there’s also been 466 public order offences in that same area.

Business call for more support

Following a number of break-ins and instances of vandalism at the end of last year in the city centre, some businesses believe tougher measures need to be put in place to tackle disorderly behaviour.

Long-time business owner Annette Farmer – who runs Xclusive Jewellers – says shoppers have to be more wary because of anti-social behaviour issues.

“A lot of my customers are scared to come into Newport,” she said.

“It’s almost a daily occurrence in the city centre at the moment. It’s heart-breaking to see what’s going on.

“People are constantly getting bombarded by people begging for change.

“We had another business that was broken into a couple of weeks ago – I’ve got extra shutters up on my shop.”

South Wales Argus: Ms Farmer's shop was vandalised late last year.Ms Farmer’s shop was vandalised late last year.

The owner of Scrum-tious Café on Charles Street, Nick Portman, said: “I don’t think the current measures we have in place go far enough.

“Newport city centre has changed so much over the years – there’s so many empty shops and businesses more often than not have to sort out problems with anti-social behaviour themselves.”

Newport City Council – which is responsible for implementing the Public Space Protection Orders – was approached for comment.

South Wales Argus | Business