16 October 2019

Businesses in Sunderland have hailed the impact of Operation Justice as police brought more than a dozen suspects into custody.

The week-long crackdown, launched on October 7, aimed to specifically target alcohol and drug-related anti-social behaviour and crime among adults in the city centre.

The operation, led by Sergeant Maria Ord and the city centre neighbourhood team, saw officers actively patrol hotspot areas and use bikes to cover ground quickly when tackling business-related disorder.

It followed some concerns raised by shop owners that the behaviour of a small group of individuals in the city centre was causing frequent and widespread disruption among the business community.

After police arrested 16 suspects on suspicion of causing city centre-related crime and disorder and made 28 dispersal orders in seven days, businesses have hailed the operation as an overwhelming success.

One business owner said the operation made a "huge difference" with increased patrols ensuring officers were always visible, while another claimed both staff and customers "felt safer" as a result.

Now Sgt Ord is looking to maintain the momentum and build on the success of Operation Justice during the countdown to Christmas.

"We are absolutely delighted with how the operation went and the feedback that we have received has been unanimously positive," Sgt Ord said.

"Operation Justice was all about tackling individuals who were repeatedly involved in anti-social behaviour and were bringing misery to businesses and shoppers alike.

"By working together with Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID), our partners at the Bridges and Sunderland City Council, we managed to arrest 16 suspects who have now been charged or summonsed to court and will be dealt with for a range of offences.

"While Operation Justice may have come to an end, our commitment to tackling crime and anti-social behaviour in our city centre certainly has not and we will look to build on the success of this initiative during the busy weeks and months to come.

"Our message remains the same - anyone who gets involved in criminality or anti-social behaviour will be dealt with robustly, and we will continue to work with all our city centre partners to ensure this city remains a safe place for businesses and shoppers alike."

As part of the operation, police also used their power to stop and search five individuals and spoke to 27 people over their future behaviour.

Police also issued 28 dispersal notices which prevented groups of individuals from congregating in locations across the city centre and arrested a number of individuals who breached those orders.

Joint patrols were also carried out with Sunderland City Council officers, while the council's CCTV operators worked hand-in-hand with police to identify offenders and target hotspot areas.

Kirsty Currie, operations manager at Sunderland BID, said: ""We are delighted with the success of Operation Justice which proves working in partnership can deliver hugely effective and positive results for the city centre.

"We will continue to work with partners with a zero-tolerance approach to crime and anti-social behaviour, to ensure our city centre is a safe environment for businesses, visitors and residents."

Andy Bradley, centre director at the Bridges, added: "The Bridges is totally committed to this campaign which is already proving to be so successful in clamping down on crime in the city centre.

"It gets the message out loud and clear that anti-social behaviour of any kind is unacceptable and won't be tolerated."

Deputy leader of Sunderland City Council and chair of the Safer Sunderland Partnership, Councillor Michael Mordey, acknowledged the adverse impact that the actions of a small minority can have on residents, visitors and businesses.

"Sunderland remains an overwhelmingly safe city and the council, the police, businesses and partners all continue to work hard at keeping it that way," Cllr Mordey said.

"This week of action has seen us taking further robust and targeted action against anti-social behaviour. There are only a small number of people involved in anti-social behaviour, yet their actions can have a major impact on residents, visitors and businesses.

"We are making clear with this week's actions that this minority are not welcome or tolerated, and the courts now have several more cases to consider."