ACTION is to be taken to clean up the town centre before the £30million Blackburn Cathedral Quarter comes on stream in autumn 2015.
The pledge of joint action by police, council bosses and traders leaders comes as shock figures reveal a sharp rise in Blackburn town centre crime, notably shoplifting and anti-social behaviour, with street drinkers defying the ban on outdoor boozing.
Supporting documents for the borough’s 12-point blueprint to revive the central retail area show a year on year rise in offences of 10 per cent. Anti-social behaviour incidents were up six per cent from August 2012 to July 2013, compared to the previous 12 months.
Shoplifting accounted for 39 per cent of town centre crime, with 49 more offences in the year.
The report said: “Anecdotal evidence suggests street drinkers are occupying prime retail and high footfall areas of the town and not being moved on.”
A crackdown on the ring of hostels and houses of multiple occupation around the town centre, which has already seen the closure of the Devonshire Hotel in Bridge Street, is a key strategy.
The documents promise increased police presence and rigorous enforcement of the street drinking ban.
The new Business Improvement District (BID) steering group hopes to finance an extra town centre police community support officer and set up an alert scheme among traders to tackle criminals.
Separate figures provided to Blackburn with Darwen council’s executive board show violent crime across the borough up 11 per cent (126 more offences) in the year to September 30 last year, vehicle crime up 30 per cent (144 more offences), burglary up 23 per cent (49 more offences), and shoplifting up seven per cent (166 more offences).
Borough deputy chief executive Andrew Lightfoot said: “We recently gained a closure order for a house whose residents were causing serious issues in the town centre and are proposing to take further action against other landlords. There will be zero tolerance to street drinking.”
Inspector Abid Khan, responsible for neighbourhood policing in the borough, said: “While there is a 10 per cent rise in town centre crime from 1,000 to 1,100 incidents when comparing August 11 to July 2012 and August 12 to July 2013, when you look at the December 11 to November 12 and December 12 to November 13 figures the numbers are 1,118 against 1,163, up by 45 crimes – a rise of four per cent”