Express & Star

Rise in antisocial behaviour in town centre

Human excrement has been found in the area behind a Stafford church and security fencing is now being considered in a bid to deter drug dealers and other trespassers.

The area at the back of St Chad's Church in Stafford town centre. Photo by Kerry Ashdown

A church warden at St Chad’s, the town centre’s oldest building, spoke out about how the grounds were being misused during a meeting called to discuss antisocial behaviour concerns in Stafford.

Town centre traders and business owners also spoke out about incidents including young people climbing scaffolding and intimidating behaviour towards staff and customers during the discussion on Tuesday (June 6).

It was arranged by Lorraine Conkey, who organises the popular monthly Stafford Walking Street, and attended by borough and county councillors as well as the town’s Chief Inspector Giles Parsons and Staffordshire’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Ben Adams.

Ms Conkey has put future Stafford Walking Street sessions on hold until the autumn after stewards working at the event were “faced off” in Tipping Street by a dozen youths “taunting and jeering”.

Teenagers riding bikes in the town centre, breaching a cycling ban imposed by the borough council as part of a Public Space Protection Order, responded with verbal abuse when asked to dismount, while a man was spat on after he asked a young cyclist to stop doing wheelies near a pram, she said.

People who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting highlighted CCTV coverage and said incidents were happening in areas not covered by cameras.

Church warden Ian Carr said: “We have had a lot of issues around the back of St Chad’s, one of them being drugs.

“We have had to pick up human excrement and the remnants of nights out like beer bottles.

"We’re looking to put up security fencing on the the north east and north west side to stop people taking a short cut.”

He added that there had also been issues with food delivery services blocking the church car park.

He said: “They have even parked on St Chad’s with their motorbikes – it is becoming a complete nuisance.

Borough councillor Marnie Philips, who works in the town centre, said: “We have had people defecating and doing drugs at the back of our shop.

"We have also witnessed young cyclists coming up Eastgate Street en masse, riding straight into traffic, kicking at cars and being abusive.”

Tim Sandy said: “In and around the back of Greggs and Boots the area feels at the moment like gangland.

"We have had large groups of kids gathering, they access the roof at the back of Greggs and the Guildhall.”

Ms Conkey said antisocial behaviour had escalated in the town centre and she was concerned for the safety of visitors to Stafford Walking Street, who range in age from babies to the over 90s.

And after she revealed what had happened at the May event she received many responses from town centre businesses and organisations sharing their own experiences.

Ms Conkey said “I thought forget about Walking Street, it’s not about that. It’s about what we can do to try and help save Stafford town centre.

“We don’t want it to be like Stoke, where you have people on monkey dust. Stafford is a great town and we don’t want it to be a no-go area.

“I put it on social media to make it known, so we can address this. Everyone has a duty of care to come together.”

Mr Adams said: “Some of what you have said isn’t new, but some is quite new, worrying and disturbing.

"When Lorraine made her concerns public it was a bit of a surprise to me as Stafford hasn’t been at the top of my radar for a while.

“However it has been happening and it has been escalating.

"The key thing for me is what can we do more of to tackle this type of behaviour, especially when we have young people at risk of getting themselves into very serious trouble or at risk of injuring themselves or others with their activities.”

Chief Inspector Parsons told the meeting that police had been cracking down on people defying the town centre cycling ban in recent weeks.

He said: “We have issued 37 tickets over the last two to three weeks to people breaching the PSPO and we are listening to community issues.

“We have done a lot more enforcement and Stafford Borough Council have joined us during that enforcement.

"I can’t promise you overnight it will stop people cycling in town but it is something we are certainly tackling.

“We have used drones in Stafford town centre and we have made six arrests in the past couple of weeks specifically dealing with town centre antisocial behaviour.

"We are using community protection warning notices and every enforcement option at our disposal to make sure we are taking robust action.

“Stafford Borough Council are responsible for CCTV in town and we regularly work with the council as part of our community safety team of officers and PCSOs.

"We do get incidents reported to us by CCTV operators.

“We always aim to have a visible presence in town but there are times when officers are committed to dealing with other incidents.

"We can’t guarantee we are going to be everywhere but we listen to people’s concerns, which is why we have significantly increased our patrolling of Stafford town centre and we are committed to continuing that.”

“I know Stafford has for many years had a town centre partnership and we want to hear from you.

"We would like to make sure we come to that meeting to continue to engage with you and hear your concerns so you can help point us in the right direction.”

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