MORE evidence is needed to secure an enforcement order to combat drunken disorder and anti-social behaviour in New Milton town centre, councillors heard.
Traders along Station Road have complained a small group of adults has been causing trouble in the street for over a year, with reports of shouting, swearing, alcohol and drug abuse, begging, threats, shoplifting and public urinating and defecating.
The town council has been battling to set up a public spaces protection order (PSPO) in the high street, as well as on the nearby recreation ground where disturbances have also been reported.
Discussions have been ongoing with New Forest District Council and Hampshire Constabulary, but NFDC is requesting written reports from traders of anti-social behaviour incidents.
As reported in the A&T, over 30 frustrated traders have signed a petition calling for action to be taken to tackle the issue of anti-social behaviour. Councillors were also told that as a result of the disturbances some elderly people were afraid to go out into the town centre.
A PSPO would empower the police to deal with incidents which are having a detrimental effect on the quality of life for those in the community.
For example, although drinking in public would not be outlawed, drunk and disorderly behaviour could result in alcohol being confiscated.
Addressing New Milton’s amenities committee on Monday, chairman Cllr Geoffrey Blunden said talks had included Insp. Scott Beney from the New Forest safer neighbourhoods team and NFDC’s service manager for housing, community safety and CCTV, Brian Byrne.
The latest meeting had concluded with Mr Byrne calling for the written evidence of disturbances in the town centre. Cllr Blunden speculated NFDC may have to present this at a court in a bid to get approval for a PSPO.
However, having visited traders on Monday with Cllr Steve Davies, mayor Cllr Alvin Reid told the meeting most of them did not have community diaries in which they could record anti-social behaviour incidents. He promised to make sure these would be provided to them.
On a more positive note, Cllr Reid pointed out staff at Morrisons said they had compiled records of a number of incidents that they would make available to the town council.
The small precinct near the supermarket is the location where the troublemakers have often been said to loiter, sitting on the benches in that area.
Also, the owner of tanning salon New Miltan, Annette Hunter, previously told the A&T of a number of disturbances she had experienced inside and outside her premises near the railway station.
New Milton Conservative Club secretary Claire Shanley had also told how guests at recent functions had to be let out via the side door as the small group would often be out the front intimidating people.
The club’s staff had reported seeing them urinating round the side of the building and even arriving for work to find a pile of human excrement in front of the outside door to the kitchen.
Cllr Blunden told Monday’s meeting: “I understand there is a process of evidence gathering.
“But I think the question we are all asking is, what is the likely date of implementing the PSPO?”
The subject of continued problems with reporting incidents to police via the non-emergency 101 phone number was also raised. One trader recently complained of a lack of police presence despite being forced to dial 101 about 50 times in 18 months.
Town clerk Graham Flexman referred councillors to a letter from New Forest Ch. Insp. Ian Trueman.
Acknowledging the issue was frustrating for the public, Ch. Insp. Trueman explained the traditional busy summer months sometimes forces the redeployment of resources from the 101 service to answer 999 calls. This results in an increase in waiting times for those calling 101.
Ch. Insp. Trueman’s letter said people can make non-emergency crime reports through the Hampshire Constabulary website, although Mr Flexman pointed out it did not have a facility for anti-social behaviour reports.
An elderly resident told the A&T he had called the police on both 101 and 999 after one of the individuals turned on him when he asked him to stop shouting and swearing in the street. However, no officers attended.
Mobility scooter user George Tomkins (85), who has MS and arthritis, sits in the precinct every day reading a newspaper and said he had witnessed such behaviour for several months. However, this was the first time he had confronted one of those responsible.
“I had put up with them for so long and been polite,” Mr Tomkins said.
“The man was effing and blinding as he went by and I said, ‘There’s no need for that’. He then started shouting and swearing at me.
“I rang the police on 101 to start with, but then I rang 999 because it was getting quite desperate. I wasn’t frightened, but I just felt it needed to be sorted.”
But Mr Tomkins said the police later rang him back to apologise that they were unable to attend.
On Tuesday a post on the @NewForestCops Twitter account said officers had been patrolling the high street that day to combat anti-social behaviour and street drinking. It added a 48-hour dispersal order had been issued to one male.
Cllr Blunden said the town council was also experiencing difficulty in its bid to obtain a mobile CCTV unit to cover the Ashley Recreation Ground which also suffers from anti-social behaviour.
Unlike the disturbances in New Milton town centre, however, he stressed those in Ashley were “more youth-oriented”.