‘It’s got to stop’ – Church takes drastic action in fight against drug-dealing
Church pastors in Ipswich feel they have “no choice” but to take drastic action against drug-dealing and anti-social behaviour that continues to plague their premises.
Rod Stone, of the Ipswich Community Church Centre, said he is finding weekly accumulations of drug litter, empty alcohol bottles, used condoms and even human excrement on the Wilberforce Street site.
CCTV has had little effect, so bosses are now applying for security gates and railings.
Police are also investigating an alleged incident of serious sexual assault near the centre.
In a planning application submitted to Ipswich Borough Council, bosses said: "Ipswich Community Church is proud of the community it is located within.
"It is fair to say, however, that this part of Ipswich suffers from challenging incidents of anti-social activity.
"Unfortunately, the forecourts of Ipswich Community Church Centre provide a convenient congregation point as well as access to dark and secluded corners.
"This is exacerbated because it is a non-residential building unoccupied at night.
It adds: "Groups of youths gather at the forecourt late at night and into the early hours of the morning.
"There is evidence of drug and alcohol consumption and of drug dealing with suggestions of county lines associations.
"On-site, there is a weekly accumulation of needles, broken bottles, used condoms and human excrement with obvious health and safety consequences.
"Unfortunately, at least one especially serious incident of sexual assault has occurred on the property."
Mr Stone said the decision to increase security was not taken lightly.
He added: "We never wanted to put railings up but now we feel we have no choice.
"The night-time activities are plaguing the neighbours and it's got to stop."
The church's bid for new security fencing, which owners want to leave open during the day, is fully supported by Suffolk police.
In a letter submitted to the council, officers wrote: "The church and surrounding area has suffered previous criminality including anti-social behaviour, drug use and criminal damage.
"It is important that steps are taken to deter this behaviour and ensure that the community church is able to thrive and remain accessible and a safe place for those who attend it."
The application will go before council planners in due course.