THE death of Martin Dines has changed the way Colchester Council safeguards rough sleepers and is aiming to tackle street drinking.

Andrew Grimwade, the council’s rough sleeping co-ordinator said weekly meeting between partners had been put in place to signpost those who are homeless towards support – should they decide they want it.

He said: “What we do is have a meeting of the Town Centre Action Plan (TCAP) weekly.

“This has come about as a direct result of the murder in the car park.

“The council, the police, our anti-social behaviour teams work together to offer support to try and make rough sleepers safer.

“We also have weekly meetings with the Night Shelter, Beacon House and other partners like Emmaus.

“We work with the rough sleepers and make sure there is an action plan in place so there is support for them which can get them in the right channels to apply for housing.

“We have an outreach team and the are out and about with shift patterns lined up to when you might most likely find rough sleepers.

“We provide them with support so they can access the services they need and create a support network for them.”

Mr Grimwade said he was not aware of regular bouts of violence between rough sleepers or homeless people and other Colchester residents.

He said: “I’m sure it might happen but just because they are rough sleepers doesn’t mean they are more prone to any violence.

“If it does happen what we need to make sure of is they feel confident in reporting it to the right people if they need to.

“But it is not like they are there fighting on street corners just because they are sleeping rough.

“If it does happen they need to know there is support and they can report it.

“We can explain the benefits of them reporting something.”

Mr Grimwade said it was difficult to say how many people were still sleeping rough in the town, but insisted numbers had fallen since he took on his role in October.

He said: “The amount is difficult to say because the numbers vary so much.

“We have tried to do counts in the past but it becomes difficult because you may not get everyone – some may be staying at a friends on that day, people might leave the area – it is so varied.

“I think we can say there are less people sleeping rough and more people being supported.

“That is not me being over confident, but it is something which has happened since somebody has been brought in to co-ordinate resources.”

Alcohol and street drinking undoubtedly played a part in Mr Dines’s death.

The council’s cabinet member for public safety and licensing, Mike Lilley said the authority was working to stop people being served booze in shops when they are already drunk but stressed it was difficult to take licensing action unless the sale is witnessed.

He said: “We don’t want to put shopkeepers in a position when they are working by themselves and there are two people wanting to be served.

“The easiest thing in the world to serve the alcohol to get rid of them.

“We want people in off licenses to take greater care, not serve them one can because it is better than four, but to call us on one of our helplines for advice.”

Mr Lilley said plans were in place to increase security in St Mary’s Car Park which will coincide with a deep clean of the facility alongside St John’s Car Park.

However he added it was unlikely the authority could afford to put CCTV in all stairwells because of the number of levels and corridors.

Mr Lilley said Mr Dines death had a huge impact on the action the council was taking on rough sleeping and street drinkers.

He said: “For a period of time we were trying to help people and change their ways but after Mr Dines death and the information which has come from it we have had to take a hard stance.

“We cannot allow another death like that on the streets of Colchester.”