Hangover Square! Residents plead for help cleaning up one of Brighton and Hove’s drink and drugs hotspots
Residents have pleaded for help cleaning up one of Brighton and Hove’s drink and drugs hotspots after complaining that anti-social behaviour was making it a “no go” area.
They spoke about “a steep upsurge in levels of street drinking, alcohol-related anti-social behaviour and drug crime which are adversely affecting and compromising their quality of life”.
In a deputation to Brighton and Hove City Council they said: “Many now describe Norfolk Square as a ‘no go’ area due to the large and intimidating groups of street drinkers who gather there, drunken yobs, fighting, smashing of bottles, drug-taking and drug litter and indecent exposure by those using it as a latrine – things that are a daily occurrence.
“Clarence Square has documented the same problems.
“One Cross Street resident came out of her house with her young daughter at 10am one morning to find three people injecting on her doorstep.
“Dealing and drug litter – needles, spoons – are regularly seen in Brunswick Road and Waterloo Street’s community gardens, with one resident finding needles so regularly that he has been practising how to pick them up safely.
“Brunswick Square and Palmeira Square had problems this summer with tented communities and the associated anti-social behaviour that those brought with them.
“There is also a clear evidenced relationship between alcohol availability and consumption.
“We want the council to play its part in helping communities in the centre of town address some of the underlying problems behind what we are experiencing.”
The Brunswick Town residents brought a deputation to Hove Town Hall this afternoon with one of them, Sir Ron de Witt, addressing a meeting of the full council.
He urged councillors and officials to take a firmer stance with drink-related anti-social behaviour and use licensing rules to regulate the problem.
Sir Ron said: “The Co-op in Western Road has expressed in much the same terms as many residents their frustration with the lack of a visible police presence and the general feeling that our area is suffering an increase in anti-social behaviour and is at the receiving end of drug and drink abuse.
“The store manager has shared with our local councillor, Phélim Mac Cafferty, photos and footage of people stealing alcohol from the Co-op who then drink it on the streets.
“In September the Co-op recorded 21 incidents and in August, 19.
“Look at the vandalism, the graffiti. Talk to business owners in Western Road about how many times they have had their windows smashed. The signs of abuse are written all over the area.
“This is not by any means all attributable to street drinkers. Much of it is yobbish behaviour by late-night drunks.
“And let’s not forget that earlier this year there was a death when a young man was killed under a truck outside the Temple Inn in Western Road.”
He quoted the woman who chairs Brunswick Square and Terrace, who said that an incident she saw in the Co-op “would have been almost funny had the man not been so off his head, violent and angry.
She said: “It’s seriously beginning to feel unsafe being out on Western Road.”
Sir Ron said: “There was a disappointing article in the press recently saying the police can’t investigate every incident.
“Our experience is that it is unusual to even see the police. If they appear at all when contacted, it is often much later and even then they don’t come out of their vehicles.
“Richard, a Brunswick Road resident, has shared his experience of seeing a man injecting in the community garden and then throwing chairs.
“He called 999 and was told no one would be attending as the nearest available car was in Rottingdean.
“Amy, co-chair of East Brunswick Residents’ Association dialled 999 to report a familiar drug dealer in action to be told that no response would be provided and that whoever had said to dial 999 for drug dealing, ‘shouldn’t have told you that’.
“Amy passed this man numerous more times on consecutive days as he appeared to have made the area around the Co-op his patch.
“Residents are frustrated and weary when it comes to reporting.
“John says, ‘In calling the police the other night, after a 30-minute wait I told the person taking the call that there will eventually be a confrontation between a resident and someone making a pain of themselves and it may not end well.’
“Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne has recently been quoted as saying the frontline for neighbourhood policing is ‘moving off the street and into our front rooms’.
“PCSOs offered reassurance to communities by building up a rapport and being a visible link between the police and public.
“Reducing the number of PCSOs means we have lost this link and this is having a devastating effect in our area where we are witnessing an increase in incidents.
“A paper to the (Monday) 10 October Neighbourhoods Communities and Equalities Committee states that total police recorded crime in 2015-16 increased by 4.5 per cent compared to 2014-15 and has continued to rise with an increase of 11.8 per cent in the first four months of 2016-17 compared with the same months in 2015-16.
“Police recorded violent crime has continued to rise in the first four months of 2016-17.
“We are aware this is a transitional period with respect to police organisation but, with funding for public services being slowly withdrawn, what are the council and politicians doing to ensure that we have adequate resource to manage and respond to the alcohol-related anti-social behaviour we are seeing?”
Councillor Emma Daniel, who chairs the council’s Neighbourhoods Communities and Equalities Committee, said: “We are not the decision-maker when it comes to PCSOs.
“People should still call 999 or 101 as appropriate – I’ve spent over 45 minutes waiting for a response at times.”
The council had extended the “cumulative impact area”, where there were restrictions on new drinks licences, in 2011.
She said: “We have the largest cumulative impact zone in the country.”
And the council had persuaded every outlet in the area voluntarily to forgo sale of super-strength lager and cider – except Sainsbury’s in Western Road.
After the deputation one resident described Norfolk Square as “Hangover Square” – while Councillor Daniel said: “Their primary issue is policing and I agree that cutting PCSOs is a mistake. Prevention is always better than cure – and more cost-effective.”
She said that it would be better if there were enough PCSOs to police low-level anti-social behaviour but that numbers had been reduced. And some of the PCSO posts were vacant.
She also expressed a concern that Sussex Police might drop its target for the time taken to answer 101 calls and was worried that people were already giving up when it took too long.