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Redbridge Police issue statement on confiscation of homeless sleeping bags

PUBLISHED: 08:31 25 May 2013 | UPDATED: 08:31 25 May 2013

Adam Jaskowiak says he had his sleeping bag taken by Redbridge Police

Adam Jaskowiak says he had his sleeping bag taken by Redbridge Police

Archant

Redbridge police have issued a statement following reports that officers had confiscated sleeping bags and food from homeless people.

The statement from borough commander Det Ch Supt Sue Williams denies that police had taken the items during the operation on May 15, but admits Redbridge Council Streetscene workers removed “discarded, soiled items that were a danger to health”.

In the statement sent to the Recorder late last night Mrs Williams said a local school had raised concerns for their pupils and allowed police into a disused swimming pool in High Road, Ilford to “remove trespassers”.

She added: “Police entered and a man and a woman, who are not as named in the Ilford Recorder article, were found. Police spoke with them and they left with their sleeping bags and personal possessions. No items were seized by police. Local authority staff cleared up drug paraphernalia, a soiled gym mattress, rotting food and other rubbish from the location.”

The Recorder stands by its original article, which was verified by two charity officials, with editor Chris Carter criticising the police for not clarifying the situation sooner.

“We are happy to publish the statement from Mrs Williams, but are disappointed with the poor level of communication from Redbridge police. Reporter Amanda Nunn made strenuous efforts to uncover the truth of what happened, putting an inquiry to a senior officer, but had to wait three days before a generic statement was issued.

“Nowhere in that statement did police deny that the incident had taken place and indeed it was admitted that police policy included ‘the need to assist in the removal of temporary structures, tents, and bedding from public spaces and other inappropriate locations’.

“We understand the need to keep the streets safe and clean but believe the major problem with homeless street people in Redbridge demands sensitive handling by professional people.”

The Recorder has spoken to both officials from the charities who verified the details of the incident and an article will follow later this morning. Redbridge Council was contacted at the time of the original article but have yet to respond.

The police statement in full:

“Having read the front page of yesterday’s Ilford Recorder (“No mercy for the homeless” 23.5.13), I felt it is only right to inform the community, and all those concerned about the issue of the facts.

Police from Redbridge have not taken food or sleeping bags from members of the homeless community. A police operation was carried out but it was not as described in the article.

Redbridge Safer Neighbourhood Teams work hard to resolve issues of importance to our residents and businesses. Homeless people and street drinkers are often raised as a significant cause of concern by local residents, schools, businesses and local politicians. These are about health risks from dirty items left in public areas, anti-social behaviour, shouting and swearing, drunkenness and drug misuse. We carried out an operation on 15th May to tackle some of those issues. At the request of police, local authority staff from StreetScene attended to remove discarded, soiled items which were a danger to health.

A local school, which had raised concerns for their pupils, allowed police access to a disused swimming pool on 15th May to remove trespassers. Police entered and a man and a woman, who are not as named in the Ilford Recorder article, were found. Police spoke with them and they left with their sleeping bags and personal possessions. No items were seized by police. Local authority staff cleared up drug paraphernalia, a soiled gym mattress, rotting food and other rubbish from the location.

Police and Council staff then went to a cemetery where they spoke to a rough sleeper who removed his tent and left after he was asked to. An unoccupied tent with a sleeping bag inside was found on a gravestone, a note was left for the owner to remove it within one week. StreetScene staff assisted in the removal of rubbish from the bushes, including two soiled sleeping bags. These abandoned items which were considered a health hazard, and the other rubbish, were placed in a bin lorry. Police also visited a local supermarket car park and spoke to a woman, who was sleeping in an alcove of a nearby building; nothing was taken from her.

Redbridge police will be holding a multi agency partnership meeting, including the voluntary sector, to agree a long term strategy to provide a solution to the issues associated with anti-social behaviour and the Borough’s homeless community.

I am committed to Partnership working to tackle the problem of homelessness, and street drinking in Redbridge. But at the same time police will deal with anti-social behaviour, and criminal offences that make the public feel unsafe.”

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