A vicar has warned a lack of nighttime policing has created a lawless atmosphere in which drugs and crime are rife.

Rev Canon Charles Jenkin called for increased patrols after the churchyard wall at St Mary Le Tower, Ipswich, suffered damage in the thousands of pounds.

He believes it has been caused by young people breaking into the churchyard after it has closed on Thursday night.

The vicar says it follows escalating incidents of vandalism and “blatant” drug taking in the churchyard, which has been littered with syringes.

“We like to welcome anyone into the church,” he added. “But over the last month or so we’ve seen more and more groups of young people gather in the churchyard.

Ipswich Star: Rev Canon Charles Jenkin at St Mary Le Tower in Tower Street, Ipswich. Picture: MATT STOTTRev Canon Charles Jenkin at St Mary Le Tower in Tower Street, Ipswich. Picture: MATT STOTT (Image: Archant)

“While most are well behaved, there are some who climb over the railing and we have no control of what’s going on.”

As the churchyard is one of the few town centre areas not visible on CCTV, Rev Jenkin says it is the scene of many drug deals.

However, he said the problems had recently got a lot worse.

“We’ve found a lot more needles and the groundskeeper has to be very careful,” he added.

“We regularly phone the police but by the time they arrive, it’s all done and they’ve left.”

Rev Jenkin said he appreciated the pressures on police but believes a more visible nighttime presence could help.

“I think it has become so unsupervised that a mentality takes grip that people can sort of do what they like,” he said.

Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner, Tim Passmore said: “I am shocked and saddened to hear of this mindless vandalism and desecration of Ipswich’s most prominent historic church. Whoever it is needs to be caught and prosecuted as quickly as possible because such behaviour is never acceptable in any circumstance.

“I completely understand the frustration experienced by local people and their wish to have a greater police presence to act as a deterrent. This is why I am pressing the Home Office at every opportunity to try and ensure Suffolk Constabulary receives a much fairer financial settlement in December so there will be more resources available. In the meantime, I will be speaking with the chief constable to see what can be done to address this problem as a matter of urgency not only by the police but the community as a whole.”