Panhandling drug users spread fear throughout Denny town centre
Concerned residents say schoolchildren are frightened to walk to school because they may be harassed by drug users demanding they hand over their dinner money.
Parents have also revealed that youngsters told them drug users actually barked at them in the street and elderly people say they are terrified to sit on their favourite bench because they will be pestered for cash.
In a bid to get action before the problem escalates even further, the residents of Denny turned out in force for a public meeting organised by local man James Marshall in Denny Baptist Church on Monday evening.
Mr Marshall said: “I’m looking for a police presence in the town centre – I just want these drug users to know they are being monitored.”
Falkirk councillors Paul Garner, Jim Blackwood and Robert Bissett, whose son died of a drug overdose in 1998, were present at the meeting along with PC Graham Fox, one of Denny’s four dedicated community police officers.
A representative of addiction support service Signpost Recovery was invited to attend the meeting but was not present.
PC Fox spoke about a recent incident at Boots the Chemist, in Stirling Street, which, because he had been giving a talk at a local primary school, he was able to attend in “under a minute”.
“If there is a reason for us to search these people you are talking about we will do so,” he added. “If there is a reason to ask them to move on we will do so. Whenever we are free you can find us on mobile patrol, either on foot or in vehicles, in Denny town centre.”
A resident responded: “The town is under pressure and we can’t put up with it. If we take matters into our own hands then it’s us who will get into trouble – but we will have to do something if police don’t.
“Four police officers just aren’t enough.”
Another householder stated: “When I was a boy there was maybe 4000 people living in Denny and we had a police station with five or six policemen. Now there’s about 18,500 people in Denny, we don’t have a police station and we only have four police officers.”
Someone stated school pupils were being accosted by drug users, who were demanding they give them their school dinner money.
PC Fox said: “We are hearing this is happening, but we are not receiving any phone calls to deal with these matters as they are happening. We need those with information to come forward more regularly and at the time incidents happen – we don’t want to hear about it three weeks after it has occurred.”
The antics of one drug user were also reported on the night – the man reportedly resorts to tripping himself up and then attempts to pickpocket people who come to his aid.
A worker at the Co-op, in Stirling Street, said: “It’s absolutely rife down at the Co-op and it’s a nightmare going down there at night. There’s lots of aggressive begging going on.”
A shop manager said: “Drug addicts have a problem, but anti-social and aggressive behaviour is against the law. The more phone calls the police get the better. People need to phone up and let them know, don’t blame the police because there’s not enough officers.”
There were reports of adults having to walk youngsters to school in the morning because they did not want to be alone when they were confronted by drug users who reportedly gather in the town centre at that time waiting for the pharmacies to open.
A resident said: “Something is going to happen to a kid one day.”
One suggestion put forward was to put back the time drug users receive their methadone prescriptions at pharmacies to later in the day when youngsters are safely at school.
The Falkirk Herald visited Denny town centre yesterday (Wednesday) morning at around 8.30am to see how bad the problem was in Stirling Street and the surrounding area.
However, on that particular morning there was little evidence of any of the trouble residents described at Monday night’s public meeting. There were a few drug users gathering outside one of the street’ pharmacies, but none of them pestered schoolchildren or elderly pedestrians for money.
What Monday’s meeting has done is highlight the ongoing problems and police stated this week they are ready and willing to deal with any matters that may arise – if they get information from the public as and when they occur.
Inspector Stephen McLaughlin said: “Tackling drug crime throughout the region is a top priority for Forth Valley Police Division and, where operational demand will allow, we will have officers on patrol to identify such offences and bring those involved to justice.
“We have received a recent complaint of an individual acting in an aggressive manner in the Denny area, which was responded to by officers at the time.
“Denny has a dedicated policing team at Larbert Police Station, led by Sgt Susan Lounsback. They can be contacted on 101 or with the relevant email found on the Police Scotland website.
“Police Scotland will continue to engage with partners who support those with drug addictions in our local communities.”