Thetford police to tackle drinking concerns

Thetford police have vowed to further build on relationships with migrant communities following complaints of alcohol-related anti-social behaviour.

Groups of men have been gathering along the town’s river corridor in recent months, leaving some nearby residents feeling intimidated.

However, the Safer Thetford Action Group has pledged to get to the bottom of the problem which it believes is primarily a cultural one.

Thetford Inspector Adam Hayes said the issue of alcohol-related behaviour around Butten Island, Spring Walk and Painter Street had been made a priority at July’s Safer Thetford Action Group (STAG) meeting.

Since then, extra patrols had been set up and the plan was to communicate with migrant groups and “white British” residents to ensure each respected and was aware of the other’s culture.

“Historically it’s associated with the seasons so you get most people drinking outside in the summer months – and it’s usually a cultural thing,” he said.

“Thetford is populated with a lot of migrants and in their culture they drink outside.

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“We don’t have a problem with that but we do have a problem with what some of them do when they are drinking.

“If they take cans and litter away with them, then that’s fine, but what we want is something long-term and people drinking responsibly without the need for police to get stuck in and taking drink off people.”

Thetford has four Designated Public Places (DPP) – sometimes known as alcohol-free zones – which do not ban drinking, but give police extra powers to deal with alcohol-related anti-social behaviour in those areas.

The main zone is the town centre, with the other three outside shops on the Redcastle Estate, Abbey Estate and Pine Close.

In these areas officers have the power to ask a person to stop drinking and can confiscate alcohol, even if the can or bottle is unopened, in a public place if in their opinion someone is creating or likely to create disorder or behave in an anti-social manner when drinking or under the influence of alcohol.

Caroline Jacobs, 55, a nurse from Canon’s Close, said she had seen large groups gather along the Haling Path, the Abbey water meadow and Butten Island, mostly in the evenings, but once as early as 9am.

“There can be quite a lot of them and it feels quite intimidating – twice recently I’ve seen men urinating on the Haling Path,” she said. “They were gesticulating at me and it’s not an isolated incident. They probably don’t realise it’s intimidating but it needs the police to go and talk to them. Thetford gets a bad press anyway and the river is our jewel in the crown and it does spoil it.”

Inspector Hayes added: “What we’re also looking to do is amend and review the boundaries of the DPP in Thetford because if people are drinking anti-socially, we don’t have the powers.”