It’s not controversial to say that Commercial Road in Portsmouth has seen better days.
A series of blows that have seen first other shopping centres – such as Gunwharf – rise to prominence, then internet shopping take off and also hard economic times take out some major stores means it’s tough for large high streets up and down the country.
Commercial Road is no different, and in recent times the increase of rough sleepers in the area has also not helped.
That is not to be unsympathetic to those who are unfortunate enough to end up on the streets, nor to want to deny them help, but in reality a growing homeless population can deter people from visiting parts of the city centre.
So there are many reasons to wish the police well with the launch of their city centre team.
The officers tell us today that they have identified areas to work on – persistent car park criminals who steal from cars, regular shoplifters and beggars who are not actually homeless but pretend to be so.
Most people who have spent any time in Commercial Road recently probably wouldn’t disagree with that assessment, either. But it is important to get the message out that something is happening and that action is being taken.
The most surprising thing is that there has not previously been a dedicated team for Guildhall Walk, Guildhall Square and Commercial Road. It seems sensible that shopping and leisure areas have their own issues that make them separate from the rest of the city centre.
Obviously, a police team is not going to sort out the economic woes of a high street, nor attract new names – or new shoppers – into it.
But it’s one of the strands that can help, and there is nobody who would not want the centre of Portsmouth to be an area of which we can be proud rather than slightly ashamed. We hope that this team continues to make a progress – with the result that Commercial Road becomes a more pleasant place for everyone concerned.