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Congregation 'afraid to go to church' after anti-social behaviour saw syringes and bottles dumped outside

Police have organised a clean-up in the grounds of a church after anti-social behaviour left worshippers too scared to attend.

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Volunteers clearing up the churchyard, which had been littered with syringes and bottles. Photo: West Midlands Police.

Syringes and bottles were among the debris left at St Paul’s Church on Long Lane, Halesowen, which serves the Parish of Blackheath.

Police officers took action with members of the local community and other volunteers after anti-social behaviour caused "a great deal of upset" to the congregation.

St Paul's Church is ordered by a large, green space and sits within a cemetery. Over the last few months, the grass, shrubbery and trees that surround the church had become overgrown and unkempt.

St Paul's Church. Photo: Google.

Members of the church were struggling to maintain the surroundings and unfortunately, as it became untidier, the seemingly neglected land started to attract people who would meet up to take drugs, drink alcohol and take part in other anti-social activities.

While the overgrown greenery helped keep them mostly hidden from view, it was obvious from the syringes, bottles and other debris left behind that people were causing a nuisance in the grounds.

Police dealt with the problem when called but given the cover the surroundings offered, those misusing the space would inevitably return.

This was causing a great deal of upset to the local congregation and was getting to the stage that some members were afraid to go to the church to worship – something that was only going to get worse with darker nights coming in during the autumn and winter months.

A spokesperson for West Midlands Police said: "We knew we had to work on a longer-term solution to the problem so we came up with the idea of a community clear-up operation around the churchyard.

"We wanted to make it much more attractive for churchgoers while at the same recreating a clear space, which would make it harder for anyone to openly misbehave in.

"We got in touch with Groundwork, a charity that supports environmental community projects, and they put a call out for volunteers to helped us recruit willing helpers.

"We got to work on Friday and the space now looks much better."

Dudley Council’s street cleaning team had already removed an encampment form the site before police began their clear-up operation and Green Leevs Garden Centre in nearby Rowley Regis also provided fresh shrubs to plant.

Halesowen Neighbourhood Policing Supervisor Sergeant Nichola Chester acknowledged the team effort involved in the clear-up, and said: "The churchyard at St Paul’s was attracting some people for all the wrong reasons and while we’ll always take steps to address anti-social behaviour, community policing is about much more than dealing with problems after they’ve occurred.

"We know people have an interest in what’s going on in their neighbourhood and want to take pride in their surroundings.

"We’ve got a role to play in tackling crime and keeping people safe but we also want people to actively participate in improving their communities so we’re really pleased to be working with residents, church goers, local businesses and the council on tidying up St Paul’s churchyard."

While the land might be cleared, Nichola and her team still intend to drop in on St Paul’s over the next few months to check if any further help is required to help maintain the grounds and to deal with any issues that might crop up.