The local Chief Inspector has promised a response after a large group of angry Rhosddu residents gave an ‘eye opening’ and ‘shocking’ account to councillors and others at a meeting last week.
Recently Rhosddu has been subject to the first PSPO in Wrexham, described at the time as a zero tolerance crackdown, and featured in a report to Councillors who were looking at the problem of discarded needles from what was described as a ‘novel’ point of view – the residents.
Last week saw a residents meeting organised in Rhosddu where the issue of anti-social behavior, drug and alcohol abuse were on the agenda.
Representatives from various drug and alcohol related agencies were listed ‘to give a broader picture’ however were described as being ‘utterly silent’ during the meeting.
One resident told us: “The meeting was filled with exasperated people who are fed up with what has been left to happen”. Another local resident described the meeting as ‘very fiery’, but was critical saying, “Incoherent anger and the contributions from the top were vague and unhelpful.”
Another told us: “It’s clear people feel very angry about how anti-social behaviour has worsened in our part of the town. There weren’t any clear solutions on offer from the top table, which added fuel to the fire. I’ve been asking the local councillor for some action on the alleyway between Gerald St and the train station since August.
“There’s so little information coming from the key agencies involved that it’s fuelling people’s resentment. Too many people appeared to be passing the buck.”
A parent from Vernon St said after the meeting: “I was expecting more information from external agencies as to how these problems in our area are being addressed. It just turned into a platform of understandably angry residents voicing their frustrations. Yet the people leading the meeting offered no answers/ solutions to the problems. It just left people feeling even more frustrated!”
A parent from Spring Gardens said: “The police have neither the power or the resources to do anything. The health board have issued 250,000 syringes but collected none. There might be a phone number you can call to get someone out to pick up dirty needles, unless it’s on private land. Basically we are on our own and nothing can be done.
“On the plus side, Wrexham has the cheapest heroin in the country so if you can’t beat them join them!”
One other resident said they were disappointed that there ‘didn’t appear to be any vocal representation from any of drug and alcohol agencies to explain how services in the area are accessed and what strategies are in place to support Service Users’ adding: “The meeting escalated quickly and soon became a platform for residents to vent their anger and frustrations regarding the on going issues of anti social behaviour in the area.
“There didn’t appear to be anyone who could offer direct solutions/ reassurances to residents. Without knowing what is already being done in our area to support Service Users, it is difficult to know how to move forward with positive solutions.”
“Many people in the meeting were confused at procedures for reporting issues. Some people had reported issues to the council only be told that their issue was a police matter. Then when phoning the police they would be told it was a council matter. By the end of the meeting I feel people were still none the wiser as to which authority to approach with specific concerns.”
Former local Conservative candidate for AM and MP, and meeting organiser Andrew Atkinson said afterwards that although around 100 residents attended the meeting many more wanted to attend ‘but sadly they did not feel safe walking there in the dark, this alone is a big problem’. This was anecdotally referenced by someone else who attended the meeting who said ‘some people in the area are afraid of leaving their homes after dark.’
Mr Atkinson was the target of some direct questions, being called what we think was a twit at one point, with some enquiring why he had organised the meeting when he didn’t live locally and subsequently pointing out that his party has overseen budgetary cuts which have impacted frontline services.
Mr Atkinson told us: “One man sat to my left just swearing at me for most of the meeting which was pointless. I organised the meeting with Councillors as decision makers and the agencies need to see that anger and hear first hand the frustrations.
“The meeting was light on solutions last night as I feel that the Police could have offered and engaged more. Following the meeting a lot of work has been done between myself and the Councillors to try to get action on these concerns.”
Mr Atkinson added: “I’m pleased that the Police attended but sadly felt that there was little empathy from the Chief Inspector. The Chief Inspector did a good job of being upfront and straight with residents about the situation but I don’t feel his approach helped when we all believe that there is more that can be done by all stakeholders.”
“Councillors Steve Wilson, I David Bithell and Phil Wynn and myself will also being asking Wrexham County Borough Council about the possibility of using monies generated from littering fines in the area as a source of revenue to clean up discarded needles whilst we lobby the Government for more long-term policy changes.”
Previously PSPO laws have been referenced via tough talking with ‘crackdown’ and ‘zero tolerance’ buzzwords being used, yet balanced by talk that ‘penalties are the absolute last resort’ and ‘the number of people rehabilitated would be the true measure of success’. The meeting echoed the call for a wider response, with police bluntly telling the meeting it would not be possible to arrest the way out of the problem.
Wrexham.com spoke with North Wales Police after the meeting, Chief Inspector Dave Jolly told us: “We welcome the fact that so many people turned out for this important meeting. We were humbled by the accounts given by residents about what they have to face.
“Clearly there is a perception that anti-social behaviour has risen dramatically. There will be an increased police presence in the area at key times and I would encourage people to continue to report incidents of anti-social behaviour and drug dealing on 101. We will respond.”
Two local Councillors have since launched a petition (viewable and signable here) authored by Councillors Phil Wynn and Steve Wilson.
The petition is directed to the Welsh Government and the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, but not Wrexham Council.
It requests a ‘proper needle exchange policy’, money to commission clearance of needles from private land, a few of commissioning policy mentioning Ty Croseo specifically in terms of its impact on local residents and a section on changing HMO law to have sound insulation compulsory.
For those residents locally and on Facebook there is a community page here – which at the time of writing has a mini-community manifesto posted – and ongoing discussion about arranging future meetings on the topic.