Time to tackle drink problems in Thetford, say councillors

Vigilante attacks on people drinking alcohol in Thetford are a “real concern” following months of antisocial behaviour in the town.

The remark was made at a meeting of the town council during which problems with people drinking in the town centre were raised.

Although antisocial behaviour has been adopted as a priority by the Safer Neighbourhood Team, some on the council felt not enough was being done, or seen to be done, to tackle the issue.

Speaking at the meeting last week Saxon ward councillor Terry Jermy said: “I think by far the biggest issue for people in the town is drinking and antisocial behaviour – it really is a concern.

“The police have got to connect with the public about what’s happening. I’m really concerned about vigilante attacks on people drinking in the street – it really is that bad.”

The concerns follow repeated vandalism of businesses on White Hart Street during recent months and people urinating and taking drugs in a nearby alleyway. There have also been reports of drinking in the town centre, much of which is allocated as a designated public place meaning that while alcohol is not banned, police have the power to confiscate it if an individual is behaving in an antisocial way.

Acting town clerk Susan Glossop also revealed at the meeting she had recently been forced to call police following people drinking alcohol in Kings House gardens.

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Guildhall ward member Robert Kybird said the area around Button Island was “intimidating” while Saxon ward member Dennis Sully called for a complete ban on alcohol in public places.

He added: “I think the problem we have is the legislation because you have to have antisocial behaviour before the alcohol is taken off them.”

Thetford mayor Derek Mortimer said: “I think the only thing we can do is to ask them [Thetford police] to take into consideration these views. We’re a toothless tiger. Once it’s put in their domain hopefully they’ll do something about it.”

Speaking after the meeting, a police spokesman said he was aware public opinion in Thetford was “coming to a head”, but added steps were being taken to control the problem.

He said 221 people had been spoken to regarding alcohol-related antisocial behaviour, alcohol had been seized and three arrests had been made. He added that a fixed penalty notice and three section 27 direction to leave notices have been issued.

Sergeant Jon Papworth said: “Although many people enjoy alcohol responsibly, we are taking a very firm line on anyone found drinking in a designated public place, which is generally made up of the town centre.

“Officers and PCSOs all have the power to confiscate alcohol from such individuals and we will be issuing fixed penalty notices or making arrests for further disorder.”

“Any behaviour that endangers the public will be dealt with robustly and we will be look to bring people before the courts if necessary. We would encourage everyone to drink within their homes or at a local public house rather than socialise and consume alcohol in the street.”

To target drunk and disorderly incidents, Breckland Council has offered a number for the public to text at the time problems are occurring so CCTV can be used to identify offenders. The number is 07901 007575.