July 23 2014 Latest news:
Friday, June 20, 2014
A crackdown on drug taking and other antisocial behaviour at the bus station in Bury St Edmunds has been branded “imperative” to keep the town booming.
New figures show staff at the station were subjected to verbal abuse by loitering youths on a weekly basis, while local police chief Sergeant Alistair Torkington said the station was in the town centre’s most troublesome area for antisocial behaviour.
Police have banned repeat offenders from the station, as well as stepping-up patrols and introducing measures to combat drugs in a bid to quash the problem.
Bury’s thriving town centre has been widely praised for bucking the national trend, and Our Bury St Edmunds chief executive Mark Cordell said keeping the town safe was crucial to attracting shoppers.
“One of the reasons Bury is so popular is people feel safe and secure here,” he added.
“It’s imperative that we keep that as the case, therefore with any issue of antisocial behaviour or crime hotspots, we need to liase with the police and address them as quickly as possible.
“We don’t want any part of the town to get a reputation or be an unpleasant place to be.”
St Edmundsbury Borough Council manage the bus station building, and last year council staff and those at Forest Heath suffered 76 cases of verbal and physical abuse - the “vast majority” of which took place in and around the station.
Tackling antisocial behaviour was a key priority for the town’s Bury Central Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) between December and March, in response to a growing problem.
Officers installed blue lights in the toilets to ward-off drug users, removed chairs and increased no-smoking signage.
They also patrolled the station between 3.30-6pm, introducing banning orders and even carried out search operations with a drug dog.
“We think it has got better,” said Sgt Torkington.
“The staff there, the manager there has said its improved, but there is a fine line between removing the problem at the bus station and moving it elsewhere.
“The bus station, Sergeants Walk, the library, St John’s Street - they’re the main areas we have problems with drinking and antisocial behaviour.
“It’s not a big problem, but it is a problem if you’re near it. We’ve got to identify the people that are responsible and try to fix it.”
Sgt Torkington also urged anyone on the receiving end of such behaviour to tell police - a call reinforced by St Edmundsbury leader John Griffiths.
He said: “No one - be it our staff, our residents, shoppers and visitors to Bury, or town centre workers using the bus station – should have to tolerate abuse, physical or verbal.
“Our staff should be able to go about their daily work without being harassed, shouted or sworn at. Equally those that use the bus station – or who are simply walking past it – should be able to do so without feeling intimidated.
“We are working with police to deal with this issue. We urge anyone who is subject to antisocial behaviour at the bus station, or any other council premises for that matter, to report it.”