A new initiative to clamp down on anti-social behaviour in and around the town centre has been launched in response to issues raised online.
The action titled ‘Operation Bridal’ by North Wales Police focuses on the King Street area around the Wrexham bus station. From yesterday there are ‘high visibility’ police officers patrolling the area to help tackle anti-social behaviour in the area.
Operation Bridal comes off the back of a series of complaints about the number of anti-social incidents which have taken place both in the bus station and on King Street in the past few weeks with many documented by local residents via social media – with one post to Wrexham.com having over 100 comments.
Many people were complaining about the lack of intervention by Wrexham Council and the Police, with accounts of danger to individuals wandering through traffic at the busy bus station, and others mentioning how people were ‘visibly upset at seeing them’ (the individuals pictured), with issues involving children also cited.
Bruna posted saying it highlighted issues encountered highlight ‘what life as business owner in Wrexham really means. I hope someone takes this seriously and does something soon.’
A comment by Lisette encompassed a differing view, saying: “Does this not just highlight the fact that there may not be enough support for vulnerable people with mental health issues or addictions. You don’t know them or why they’re there.”
Speaking to Wrexham.com yesterday, Town Centre Inspector Paul Wycherley said: “Over the past few weeks there have been reports of anti-social behaviour, such as urinating, being sick and people approaching the public in the bus station.
“The operation is to combat this behaviour. We have to listened to the public about what is happening and we have responded.
Last week a photograph was shared on the Wrexham.com Facebook page, showing two people lying on King Street – with the photo being shared hundreds of times. There had been reports that the pair could not be moved from the area by a PCSO due to them being on ‘legal highs’.
We queried with Inspector Wycherley as to if this is the case and for details on North Wales Police’s stance on legal highs.
Inspector Wycherley noted that there is a ‘multi-agency collaboration’ to tackle the issue, including work with Wrexham Council, the local MP and other organisations in the town centre.
Inspector Wycherley added: “Legal highs or psychoactive substances is a problem. There is a difference between those with mental health problems, homelessness etc and those carrying out criminal behaviour.
“The problem we have got is no one knows what are in the products and don’t know what people are taking. It is a serious problem. The term legal highs creates an illusion that people think they are alright to take.
“There have been serious incidents where people have ended up in hospital. There is a misrepresentation of what legal highs are.”
We also contacted Wrexham Council for clarification on their stance with the use of legal highs in the town.
Cllr Hugh Jones, Lead member for Communities and Partnerships, said: “Wrexham Council, working in a partnership between the Police and our Trading Standards Officers have had some success in limiting the retailing of so called Legal Highs. However, there is a significant availability of these products through the Internet which often makes it difficult to identify the source of supply of these products.
“This is a complex issue, evidenced by the use of the word ‘legal’ and is a UK wide problem currently being looked at by both the UK and Welsh Assembly Government. One of the problems is that as soon as a particular cocktail is put on the prohibited list the ingredients are changed and it becomes difficult to take action.”
Cllr Ron Prince, Lead Member for Youth Services and Anti Poverty, added: “There’s also a lot of work going on within our youth services and briefing sessions have been provided to key front line staff including youth workers and YJS Officers. Training has been given to drug and alcohol staff and we have developed prevention education sessions that are being delivered to year 9 pupils in all secondary schools by In2change (drug and alcohol team) as part of the schools PSE programmes.”
“Our key focus with young people is not to use term legal high and refer to them as New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) as legal high term is causing confusion with young people.”
“As a Council we are proactive in pointing out to young people the very often fatal consequences of the use of these substances and the unknown dangers of the chemicals they are made of. We will continue to work pro actively with our partner agencies to tackle the problem and our message to young people is not to use them.”
Georgia had the highest rated comment on the thread responding to the images posted online, saying: “They are not rubbish to be “tidied up” but human beings. People with mental health/drug/alcohol problems should be looked on as the vulnerable people in society that need our help the most.”
At a recent visit to Wrexham police station Wrexham.com spotted a poster advertising a link to MyLegalHigh.org, an online survey that apparently takes around 20 minutes, but also contains a useful reference and information page for those who wish to learn more about so called ‘legal highs’.