A DISTRESSED woman struggling against a PCSO’s grip might appear like an arrest - but his reassuring words and attempts to guide her back into the SOS bus were inaudible to passers-by.

It was less than an hour into the community day of support that reports came in of the vulnerable woman screaming in Queen Street.

Three agencies were involved in caring for her until specialist help arrived.

Those groups, and more, continued offering care across Colchester but also taking enforcement action where necessary.

The effort, focussed on the town centre, was co-ordinated by Colchester Council, Essex Police, Beacon House, Open Road and Colchester Borough Homes.


Help - SOS Bus’ Kajsa Birch and Jane Wood

Mike Lilley (Lab) the council’s portfolio holder for safer communities, said: “It’s not about just moving people on.

“We’re gathering intelligence on people’s needs and signposting them to the right services, but also trying to identify people who are genuinely homeless versus fraudulently begging.

“Rough sleepers are some of the most vulnerable members of our community and we need to work in a flexible and creative way to support them.”

With addiction and solvent abuse fuelling offensive behaviour in town, there are plans to consult with off-licences so they can take a firmer line on who they sell to.

Mr Lilley added the crime wave is also hampering the retail trade with RBS, in Head Street, considering closing its ATM outside.

The council’s zone manager, Peter Ferguson, labelled St Mary’s car park and church yard, St John’s car park, Priory Street car park and the High Street as hot spots for drug paraphernalia and antisocial behaviour.

He said: “Most people will have a form of addiction which is keeping them on the streets and people who are housed can end up rough sleeping again because they like the social aspect of things.

“Also as services improve, more people from outside of Colchester move in so it actually increases the problem in some ways.

“It’s a constant working process.”

Other operations included highlighting knife amnesty bins and acting upon intelligence to identity trafficked and illegal workers, and those at risk of exploitation by criminals.

Inspector Rob Temme, of Colchester’s Community Policing Team, said: “It’s our intention to complete activities which will continue to address the force’s priorities around vulnerability and hidden harms.

“We also plan to commence work in support of effective and compassionate long-term solutions to reduce the impact of those whose behaviour affects the quality of life of the entire community.”