New proposals target ‘aggressive’ begging and sexual exploitation in Newport
Saul Cooke-Black, local democracy reporter
Sexual exploitation and aggressive begging in the Pill area of Newport could be targeted under a range of new measures being considered by the city council.
Newport council has drawn up a draft public spaces protection order (PSPO) for Pill after a previous one expired in July.
PSPOs are aimed at preventing anti-social behaviour and can be enforced by police and council officers, with breaches of the order constituting a criminal offence, resulting in fines of up to £1,000.
The previous order contained three restrictions aimed at targeting street drinking, anti-social behaviour caused by groups and use of intoxicating substances.
But a new order set to be considered by councillors could include a wide range of new powers to tackle sexual exploitation, aggressive begging, spitting, littering, unsafe use of scooters and bikes and defecation and urinating in public.
A new restriction, requested by Gwent Police, would prevent people from entering the area to “engage, loiter or solicit on the streets for sexual exploitation”.
A council report says that since August 31 last year, 35 people have been arrested for soliciting in the Pill ward, with 28 of those charged.
A further six arrests were made in this time relating to street sexually exploited adults, which were non-prostitution offences, the report says.
The new power would help the police issue fines before a person undertakes the act of soliciting.
“It will actively target and aim to discourage those travelling into the area with the view to exploit others,” a report says.
But the restriction “does not target the people being exploited”, the report says, adding it is aimed “to target those exploiting others”.
The order could also ban begging which is “aggressive or intimidating or is likely to cause someone to feel harassed, alarmed or distressed”.
It follows a similar ban on aggressive begging introduced near cashpoints in Newport city centre.
New powers could also see cyclists, or users of scooters, E-scooters, E-bikes, skateboards and hover boards, made to dismount if requested by an officer.
It follows reports they have been used to evade police and linked to gang issues and the distribution of drugs.
However, the order must not impinge on legitimate uses of these modes of transport, the report adds.
Powers to combat defecation and urination in public spaces or in public view are proposed after Gwent Police said there had been examples on religious building steps, in fire escapes and in alleyways which were “a regular occurrence”.
The new measures have been requested by Gwent Police over concerns the previous restrictions were “too limited” to tackle wider issues in Pill.
A Gwent Police inspector, whose comments will be considered by councillors, said there is “considerable public outcry at the anti-social behaviour created by individuals as well as groups loitering on the streets and open areas”.
“This causes a fear of crime, an image of gangs along the streets as well as the unpleasant anti-social activities resulting in public being harassed, alarmed and distressed,” the inspector said.
“A PSPO with wider remit and refreshed for the current issues faced by Pill in 2021 will have more relevance.”
The draft PSPO will be considered at a Newport council scrutiny committee meeting on Friday, before a public consultation on the plans.