Anthony Stansfeld, police and crime commissioner for Thames Valley, revealed on January 4, 2018, he has yet to receive the letter sent by Simon Dudley, the Conservative leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council, despite details from it having already been made widely public.
He said: "I am somewhat surprised that this letter, sent from the Leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council, has been released publicly but not yet been sent directly to me. Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council are a key partner for Thames Valley Police and myself and I am always happy to listen to any concerns they may have and work together where possible."
Mr. Dudley has called on the police to take legal action against rough-sleepers in the upmarket town before the royal wedding takes place in May. He said "an epidemic of rough sleeping and vagrancy" in Windsor was causing concern and presented the town "in a sadly unfavorable light."
He believes the 1824 Vagrancy Act and the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act should be applied to rid the area of homeless people and beggars from the streets. In tweets posted while on holiday in the United States over Christmas, the council chief said Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding in May "will focus minds. Due to tourism, Windsor is different and requires a more robust approach to begging."
He claimed also people begging for money were "marching tourists to cash points to withdraw cash." His comments have caused a split on social media with some locals supporting his call while others have attacked it.
A letter will be going from me as leader of @RBWM to @StansfeldPCC asking that @ThamesVP enforce the Vagrancy Act against organised begging in #Windsor. Residents have had enough of this exploitation of residents and ~6 million tourists pa https://t.co/6fU5WBaBPi— Simon Dudley (@MrSimonDudley) 29 December 2017
Feels more a public safety issue, having been personally approached on Boxing Day and walked past many openly begging. One was also selling off his boxed food for profit. I didn’t feel safe and I didn’t see one police officer either. https://t.co/cT8kOR3zN9— Claire Scull (@ClaireScull) 29 December 2017
In a statement to Sputnik, Mr. Stansfeld said the issues had never been raised with him before despite attending the council meeting in October. "I will of course provide Cllr Dudley with a full response addressing his concerns once I have received the letter and investigated the issues he has raised further," he added.
The police commissioner continued: "Supporting the vulnerable, including the homeless, is a priority within my Police and Crime Plan and I have previously provided funding to homeless shelters in Berkshire. I also provide a Community Safety Fund to local authorities which allows them to fund any local priorities they may have to prevent crime and improve community safety and this year provided Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council with nearly £150,000."
"Protecting the public is of the utmost important to both myself and Thames Valley Police and the force work day in and day out to keep people safe from harm and make the Thames Valley a safe place to live, work and visit," added Mr. Stansfeld.
Ironic that some of the homeless people Simon Dudley wants 'dissapeared' before the Royal Wedding could well be men who served with Harry, seeing as how this Govt has put more ex-servicemen on the streets than any since the Napoleonic wars…
Council (obviously under orders) want to get rid of homeless people in Windsor before the royal wedding… Buckingham Palace has plenty of room!
p.s. I thought Harry and Meghan were 'humanitarians' 🤔 pic.twitter.com/LKtBGlkkAa— Maya Simone (@mayasphere) 4 January 2018
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Paul Noblet of the charity Centrepoint — whose patron is Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, said: "Begging and rough sleeping are two distinct issues, and it is not helpful to conflate the two. The best way to help rough sleepers is to get them off the streets and into an environment where they can access the long-term support they need."
Under the Vagrancy Act it is a criminal offense to sleep rough or beg. According to UK government figures, there were almost 1,500 convictions under this law in 2016.