Drug and alcohol abuse taking place in Norwich churchyard

People who are drinking and taking drugs in a Norwich churchyard are to be targeted by police as part of a major crackdown.

People living near to St Michael at Plea Church in Norwich's Tombland area have reported concerns about drug and alcohol abuse taking place.

The concerns were raised at a recent meeting of the City Centre Safer Neighbourhood Action Panel (SNAP) and have now been adopted as one of the team's three priorities for the next three months.

Julian Foster, pictured below, chairman of the city centre SNAP, said: 'There's been considerable development of houses between the church and Tombland and there's a steady flow of pedestrians going down there.

'When they came to the public meeting they [the residents] said there was an awful lot of detritus there; bottles and cans, needles and syringes and so it was evident that people had been sleeping there.'

When police community officers were tasked with attending the churchyard following the meeting, Mr Foster said they found evidence of exactly the sorts of items those living near there had reported, including needles, cans, bottles and sleeping bags.

He said: 'PCSOs during the day and PCs doing public order patrols in the night are keeping a special eye on it so we will see how it goes.'

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Mr Foster said the SNAP team was also looking to get permission from the council, and the people that live there, to get a gate installed in a gateway at the back of the church which leads to the problem area.

He added: 'We've got to get permission from the local residents so that they're not excluded from a place they can go to, so we're seeking permission from the residents and the city council and asking the city to supply us with a gate.'

A homelessness officer from the city council is also expected to visit the site to see if anyone frequen-ting the churchyard is genuinely homeless. Mr Foster said there was evidence of some of those frequenting the site earlier in the evening being young people, but it was not known whether they were the people sleeping there.

The church, which in 2004 opened as the SPCK bookshop, has housed the Norwich Christian Resource Centre since 2008 and offers a bookshop, meeting place and the Forget Me Not Caf�.

The next meeting of the city centre SNAP is on August 15 at the Friends Meeting Room, Upper Goat Lane, at 7pm.

Are you fighting a drugs problem where you live? Call Evening News reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk