No place to hide in Falkirk town centre

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Drug dealers will have no place to hide in Falkirk town centre after the cover of a concealed crime hotspot was blown by police.

Work to secure the removal of a canopy outside Asda which blocked CCTV cameras and enabled troublemakers to discreetly deal drugs, fight and drink in public has resulted in a 75 per cent drop in reports of crime in the area.

Community officers identified the need to get rid of the cover at the Newmarket Street store last year following a string of complaints from members of the public over the illicit activities taking place there, as well as damage caused to nearby roofing and windows.

A request made by police for the canopy — in place since 1978 — to be torn down was then taken on board by Asda’s property management team, and, with support from the local authority’s planning department and the Falkirk Delivers business improvement district, the structure was removed last month.

The removal has been welcomed by officers, who say the move represents a significant achievement in their battle against anti-social behaviour.

Ciaran Payne, Falkirk town centre community officer, said: “Our focus just now and throughout the summer is on anti-social behaviour.

“The canopy at Asda was a constant problem and was one of our main hotspots for trouble.

“We had lots of issues, from drug dealing to drinking and urinating in the street to crimes of violence.

“It usually involved people in their early 20s up to people in their 30s or 40s.

“They would congregrate near the bus station and the occasional assault would take place.

“It was right at the bus stop so people arriving in the town were seeing it and it was a rundown area too.

“We kept pushing for it to be taken away because we had received so many complaints.

“It was a bad image for the shop and the town centre.

“In May last year we had 20 calls relating to anti-social behaviour there compared to five this May. We’re glad it’s gone.”

Paul Traynor, Asda Falkirk general store manager, said: “We have established an effective working relationship with the local community Police and made a common sense decision to help ensure the safety of our customers and the community.”

Meanwhile, police have also outlined plans to ensure Falkirk’s High Street is as pedestrian-friendly as possible for the blind and partially sighted by tackling the issue of street begging.

In recent weeks Forth Valley Sensory Centre has voiced concerns over the potential for serious accidents due to the number of obstructive items left on the ground in the heart of the town.

As a result, officers have taken steps to make those responsible aware of the danger they cause others who may rely on their memory, rather than sight, to get around.

Sergeant Davie Bellingham, of Falkirk Police Station, said: “We have engaged with these people to guide them towards homeless assistance organisations like Access to Housing or the Salvation Army.

“We do that before we hand out any of our warning letters on how this conduct can affect the blind or partially sighted.”

However, the failure to heed warnings given out by police by a minority has resulted in reports being sent to the procurator fiscal.

Sgt Bellingham added: “Unfortunately, three people have now been reported for obstructing a footpath in the town centre by begging over the last week.

“Beggars leaving objects such as hats or cups lying on the ground up the high street causes these people problems when they’re walking around that area as they’re not expecting these items to be there.”