A councillor and a youth worker have come out fighting after Harehills was slammed for street drinking and anti-social behaviour - but business owners and locals told the YEP they agreed with comments made by police in response to a shop’s bid to extend its alcohol sales.
As reported in yesterday’s Yorkshire Evening Post, a damning letter from West Yorkshire Police in response to the application from the Krakus, painted a grim picture of drink-related violence and aggressive and intimidating behaviour being exacerbated by round-the-clock availability of alcohol in the area.
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But Councillor Salma Arif defended Harehills.
She said, “I appreciate there are issues in Harehills but they are the same issues across the city and we have a very resilient community here. The Cumulative Impact Policy comes into effect in January which will have a big effect. It won’t stop newsagents but in order for them to sell alcohol they have to prove to the licencing board why they need to.
“We focus on young people, we spent £42,000 of the budget to go to youth activities in the ward because we have one of the youngest populations in the city.”
The founder of a local charity Angels of Youth, Marvina Eseoghene Newton, also defended Harehills, telling the YEP: “When you look at Harehills, it is a nice reflection of the multiculturalism of our city. I know a lot of people who are creative, artistic, sporty, who do not get involved with crime and yet live with the labels we put on this area.
“What we need to do as a community is see how we can change the narrative because when you only say negative things you are defined by them.”
The YEP visited Harehills to speak to local business owners, who disagreed and said that more needed to be done in the area to combat the intimidating behaviour.
One shop owner, who didn’t want to be named due to fear of repercussions on her business said: “It’s definitely scary. I close the shop early now because I’m here on my own and most of my customers come in the evenings but I can’t stay here on my own.
“I plan to move from the area and close the business when I can because I’m so scared.”
Another shop worker said he had also begun to close earlier as evenings bring large groups of people drinking on the streets.
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He said: “The area has totally changed. It’s like a different planet all together. They come out in the street in big number and drink a lot. It’s like a street party. It changes totally especially in summer and at night. We used to close at 9pm but now its earlier.”
For another local business, the increase in aggressive behaviour has caused them to increase security. A worker explained: “In the past five years it’s got worse. People try to steal, we see drunk people many times a week, from 2pm onwards it starts. Many teenagers in the park in groups.
“We got CCTV with microphones in case anything happens but when you say Harehills the police never come. Some days work is quite stressful.”