From The Argus –
Using the criminal justice system to tackle begging can be a “very blunt tool”, Brighton and Hove’s new police boss has said.
One of chief superintendent Lisa Bell’s first tasks is looking at new ways of approaching the city’s homelessness problem after taking over from Nev Kemp as the city’s divisional commander.
In an interview with The Argus, Mrs Bell said this was one of her priorities for the coming year, adding: “Begging is a complex area. Using the criminal justice system can be a very blunt tool.”
She said there was naturally always a place for enforcement but she wanted to look at the situation more “holistically” as a way of “stopping the cycle”.
The news comes after there was public outcry in February last year when it emerged plain clothes officers were arresting homeless beggars. Sussex Police bosses at the time defended their actions, saying it was a way to force beggars to get help with addiction problems.
Mrs Bell wants now to work more with other organisations to solve the homeless crisis.
She said: “Policing alone is just one part. Particularly when it comes to support for mental health and drug dependency. We need to make sure we are sharing information, communication is important. I’ll be talking with our street team about their work.”
She also wants to look at the growing number of reports of sexual offences.
She said: “This is not unique to the city, nationally there is an increase in reporting incidents to the police. The impact of these national cases is people now have more confidence to come forward. Police also now better understand the needs of victims and there are more safeguarding resources. There have also been changes in the law on domestic abuse. I want to make sure we have the resources and understanding to investigate these crimes with respect for the victim.”
Mrs Bell, 47, joined Sussex Police 25 years ago as a police constable, going on to hold several senior positions. She takes on the role of the city’s police chief after moving from her position as head of the force’s professional standards department. She headed up investigations including the dismissal of two officers who sent an offensive selfie to colleagues from the Shoreham Airshow crash scene, and another which saw Hastings inspector Lee Lyons sacked after contacting prostitutes while on duty.
She said: “The Shoreham investigation in particular was difficult because this tragedy was an absolutely enormous policing operation which has directly affected so many families. We have shown the amazing work that continues to go on in that respect. This hard work was damaged by one or two officers. The force made the right decisions, we were transparent with the public and we wanted to make sure they could have trust and confidence in us to not brush it under the carpet. It was something we really regret happening.”