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Drug addicts blight our city centre

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BLOOD soaked tissues, dirty needles, spoons for cooking up heroin and human faeces smeared on the floor.

Sounds like a scene from the movie Trainspotting but this is modern day Brighton – 2017.

This was the grim welcome workers received as they arrived for a day at the office.

Now they are calling for the authorities to clean up the streets before the problem reaches epidemic proportions.

One worker told The Argus the entrance to the Old Steine business looked more like a drug den and staff are putting their health at risk cleaning up the mess.

“Someone had set up a ‘den’ so a few people could partake in such activities,” he said.

“We had to get a cleaner round to clear up all the drug paraphernalia including used needles, bloody tissues, blood stains, heroin cooking spoons and human faeces. Clearly this is beyond the reasonable duties of an office cleaner from a health and safety perspective.”

Only last week Chief Constable Giles York pledged to keep Sussex safe despite facing serious police cuts.

One of the workers has written to the county’s top policeman inviting him to explain exactly how he plans to tackle the issue.

Catherine Lane said if the authorities did not get a grip on the problem the effect on tourism could be devastating.

“One day I was walking down Charles Street and a man pulled down his trousers in broad day light and started injecting,” she said.

“The drugs paraphernalia left behind included prescription methadone bottles with patients’ names on as well as needles and other things.

“The issue is there needs to be some sort of policy to do something about it. I feel desperate.

“I have spent a lot of money cleaning up needles and setting up CCTV but it doesn’t stop it.

“As an employer I am really concerned as I have a duty to my staff to not expect them to work in an unsafe environment.”

Last month businesses in Meeting House Lane contacted The Argus after regularly having to clean up blood and needles from their shop fronts.

Just days later Argus staff found users injecting heroin on the doorstep of our offices in Manchester Street. Concerns sparked Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, to call for a renewed debate on drug consumption rooms.

However, there has been criticism about the idea including from the chief executive of Brighton Housing Trust Andy Winter. Councillor Dawn Barnett also dismissed the idea, suggesting it would lead those who have not tried drugs to believe it is safe.

WE WILL NEVER BE FREE OF DRUGS AND THE HOMELESS

THE OFFICER in charge of policing Brighton and Hove has said the city will never entirely rid itself of drugs.

Responding to traders’ concerns, Chief Inspector Chris Veale told The Argus he sympathised with frustrations but said it was a “big” problem that could not be solved by one agency alone.

He said: “I am really really sympathetic to those who run businesses and live locally who are affected by the issues of homelessness and those with complex needs living on the streets.

“Whilst we need to balance their needs with those of the individuals living on the streets I think we have that pretty much right.

“There’s a recognition this is a really difficult problem at the moment and no single agency can solve it.

“We are never going to make the city perfectly free from drugs and homeless people.

“Homelessness and drugs is a big issue.

“The local authority and ourselves work together on homeless and rough sleeping strategies.”

He said that officers on duty in the city centre would approach homeless people in doorways every time they encountered them, unless they were on their way to a more urgent job.

He said rough sleepers would be encouraged to seek support from charities and local services. He added that officers acted as a visible deterrent to drug use and other crime.

In addition, he said the police met weekly with the city council and drug and homeless charities to discuss particular issues of concern and to identify areas where enforcement was necessary.

He continued: “Morally we need to do something. But criminalisation might not be the best route.

“Criminal justice is only one course of action and not always the most appropriate one.

“We are looking for pathways to help people. That can involve putting them in touch with services and charities that can help, as well as criminal justice.

“Lots of people who live in and visit the city give money to people on the streets and the advice we would always share is to give that money to a charity that can help them instead. But we do take enforcement action when needed.”

Meanwhile Ch Insp Veale said that intelligence-based operations were constantly working across the city to target the dealers and gangs bringing drugs into the city.

He said tackling the supply chain over individual users had been shown to produce longer lasting effects on reducing the harm of drugs – as well as the exploitation of vulnerable drug users and children – across the city.

He added that they also carry out regular covert and undercover operations in known drug hot spots like The Level and the lower promenade to crack down on the sale of drugs. He added that they monitored drug users known a “cuckoos” because the dealers come into their homes and “push them out of their nests” to run drug dealing operations from their premises. Ch Insp Veale said that even after serving closure orders they would monitor vulnerable cuckoos.

Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said she supported the police’s tactic of targeting “high-level drug dealers” and said she hoped seizing their profits and assets could help fund drug treatment and education programmes.

In terms of practical help for anyone who encounters drug use in public, Ch Insp Veale urged people who witnessed criminality to continue to contact the police.

He said: “If it is crime related you should call the police and we will respond graded on priority. The council and City Clean respond very quickly to reports of hazardous waste. We carry out proactive patrols. If an officer is on patrol and sees a homeless person, unless they are on their way to a specific job they will speak to them and offer them advice on where to go.

“There are lots of hostels and charities within the city.”

In conclusion Ch Insp Veale conceded: “This is a really complex social issue. I don’t want the city to be messy, unsightly. It affects businesses and brings down our reputation, even though there are lots of compassionate people here.”

Ms Bourne said: “I share residents’ concerns and I know that Sussex Police has been working to highlight the wider impact that illegal drugs can have on society as a whole, as well as on those who use them.”

She added that she had provided financial support to charities and the business crime reduction partnership to combat the problem.


Source: The Argus