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Begging and ASB initiative: a testament to partnership working

A Cambridgeshire Police Operation is aimed at taking a less punitive stance towards vulnerable individuals signposting them initially to support services in a bid to change behaviours.

Operation Luscombe, aimed at tackling begging and ASB, works by using a progressive intervention system whereby individuals start with a ‘Green’ intervention (invited to an Intervention Hub that can provide support from a range of partners) through to a ‘Blue’ intervention (consideration of arrest with a Criminal Behaviour Order being pursued through the courts).

Having already seen successes in Peterborough, the operation was introduced last September to Wisbech – a town that has seen an increase in begging and anti-social activity in the last few years.

With changes in the welfare benefits system and a cost of living crisis – the situation is expected to be exacerbated in the coming months.

However, in addition to the police taking a more supportive stance initially by referring in to partners, the scheme has also worked in the opposite direction.

A stronger relationship with partners means that more community members have been able to identify signs of vulnerability and quickly refer individuals over to the local policing team.

One recent example was that partnership working has allowed for the rapid identification of a potential victim of modern slavery.

The individual had made comments to a partner agency while accessing support. The former became concerned and through close links with local police thanks to Operation Luscombe, not only knew to refer over but further had a direct line of communication to do so. The individual was thus put into contact with local officers who are/were able to establish the situation and subsequent lines of enquiry.

PC Justin Bielawski told Police Oracle the team has always worked with partners but never this closely or effectively.

The Luscombe cohort in Wisbech currently has 36 people – 32 of which are at the ‘Green’ stage’ and two at the ‘Blue’.

Individuals are moved progressively through the four stages if they do not access or engage with support. The traffic light system applies across Cambridgeshire – mitigating the risk of displacement.

Hub attendance currently sits at 29%.

One person in the current cohort is a 19 year old female who lives in private housing. She is a persistent beggar in the town centre areas. She has engaged with the Hub and reported substance misuse, no heating or hot water at the place she is staying, as well as not fully accessing her benefits.

Since engaging, she has accessed support from the Local Authority while the Department of Work and Pensions have a specialist team looking at her case to help her access the right benefits and have prevented sanctions.

Police are prosecuting for begging and are considering applying for a CBO to restrict future offending – however officers are now no longer receiving reports of her begging.

PC Bielawski said: “For me the real success of the operation is the joined up work with partners, there is a real effort by everyone to do their part in supporting our most vulnerable.  The information sharing with partners is not limited to the hub and is constant throughout the week via email / phone and very often quick time enquiries are carried out to safeguard.  

“For example, we have in the past become aware of rough sleepers in an unsafe building – we’ve acted quickly to get these people into safe accommodation and building inspectors / fire service have been out to ensure that the property does not pose any wider risk to the public.”

The initiative won the Cambridgeshire Problem Solving Award in 2021. 

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