Booze crime fears sparked over Walsall shop

Police have warned there is no ‘magic supply’ of officers to tackle increasing booze-fuelled crime in Walsall town centre.

Shop units in Bridge Street, Walsall. Photo: Google
Shop units in Bridge Street, Walsall. Photo: Google

It comes as members of Walsall Council’s licensing sub committee granted permission for the Romanian goods specialist Leo Shop, in Bridge Street, to sell alcohol between 2pm and 6pm every afternoon.

The application had been strongly opposed by West Midlands Police who said adding another licensed premises in an area “saturated” with them would only add to the increasing violence and disorder being suffered there.

They also said Walsall Police were in the process of changing officer shifts to deal with the problem in the early hours.

Shop owner Gina Pirvu said there would only be a small amount of mostly traditional Romanian drinks on display in a locked cabinet between 2pm and 6pm.

She had also put forward strict conditions that would be adhered to which, along with a number of extra ones added by members, were agreed by the committee.

Jennifer Mellor, licensing and regulatory services officer at Walsall Police, said extra high visibility patrols have been deployed on Bridge Street since last September.

She said: “This area is evidencing an increase in crime and violence. This location is a concern for West Midlands Police so much so we are now in the process of changing officers' shift patterns to deter late night crime in this area.

“We don’t have a new supply of officers that will magically work all these additional hours. This will have an impact as we’re reorganising our officers to try and cover.

“The increase in crime is during the night time economy but crime does not just occur from 10pm until 5am. Unfortunately it does happen each and every day and can still be alcohol related.

“I totally understand this application is for four hours during the day and in principle it is a low-risk application.

“But it is the location of the shop causing real concerns in this high crime location and at the centre of the cumulative impact area.”

She added that a number of bars and clubs in the area were looking to open at earlier times to attract new clientèle.

Gina Pirvu said her trade had suffered as a result of Sprint Bus works being carried out directly outside her shop, adding that her regulars had requested she stock beers and spirits.

She said her alcohol would be kept in the stockroom, while the drinks in the cabinet would be for display purposes only.

Conditions she put forward included having CCTV, operating a Challenge 25 Policy, keeping incident and refusal books and having no self-service area for alcohol.

She said: “All the other businesses have a much later closing time than mine, meaning that my business hours of alcohol sales are possibly outside all of the others.

“There is no evidence it will add to the rise in crime as my store will not contribute to the sale of alcohol in later hours.

“Moreover, the store contains 99 per cent Romanian products which attracts mostly Romanian customers.

“The request for the licence is due to a high demand from my Romanian customers for traditional Romanian drinks they will consume at home after long working hours.”

Committee members approved the application on Monday.

Among the extra conditions imposed were that alcohol would not be on public display outside of the four specified hours, CCTV must cover the cabinet and where the alcohol is kept at all times, and a prominent sign must be displayed in the window advertising the permitted hours of sale.

Committee lawyer Chris Grant said: “Members of the sub-committee recognise and accept the problems in Walsall town centre caused by the concentration of licensed premises selling alcohol including from off licences.

“These problems include high rates of violence and anti-social behaviour and the presence of street drinkers on nearby roads.

“The sub committee are satisfied that an exception to our policy can be made but only with the addition of further robust conditions that go beyond those offered by the applicant.

“The strict sale of alcohol between 2-6pm is outside of the night economy hours where the great majority of issues take place

“The applicant’s shop caters mainly for the Romanian community in Walsall and the alcohol stocked will be mainly of a specialised nature. It is unlikely it will attract street drinkers and others intent on alcohol violence.”

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