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Are ‘legal highs’ making Chesterfield town centre a no-go zone?

MP Toby Perkins visited Chesterfield town centre to listen to concerns of local people regarding anti-social behaviour of people visiting the legal high shop. Pictured is trader Bridget Smith, MP Toby Perkins and Coun Sharon Blank

MP Toby Perkins visited Chesterfield town centre to listen to concerns of local people regarding anti-social behaviour of people visiting the legal high shop. Pictured is trader Bridget Smith, MP Toby Perkins and Coun Sharon Blank

Shopkeepers have branded an area of Chesterfield town centre a ‘no-go zone’ saying it has become overrun with anti-social behaviour and drug use.

Police say the problem, around Packers Row and Knifesmithgate, is draining officers’ time and traders claim shoppers are put off the area.

Business boss Bridget Jones said her shop was suffering and claimed teenagers were purchasing ‘legal highs’ from tobacconist store Reefer.

She added: “It’s absolutely horrendous, the shop is attracting an unsavoury group of teenagers that are hanging around here day in day out, their language is absolutely appalling and they are abusing old and young people.

“They are taking drugs outside the shops and near the bus stop, it then attracts the harder crowd, such as heroin addicts.

“Just recently an ambulance had to be called out to somebody who had collapsed from taking these substances, somebody was actually treated in the shop next door too, after taking some sort of powder.

“People won’t come up to this part of the town because they are ruining it, this behaviour isn’t just a one off, it happens all the time, we have just had enough.

“My business is being affected tremendously, somebody is going to get killed out here from the stuff, that’s a definite.”

Bridget claimed police are constantly moving young people on from the area, who are snorting drugs and using homemade bongs in clear sight.

Nick Booth, police sergeant for the town centre said a lot of time was being spent in troublesome Packers Row.

He added: “This is an area we are having to target for anti-social behaviour and perceived drug use. Kids are buying legal highs from Reefer and using them there.

“Members of the public believe it is a big drug problem and it is still causing people harassment, alarm and distress.

“Some of these young people are actually turning to criminality to fund this drug habit.

“We are targeting the area a lot, certainly the alley by O-Takuda as they do congregate quite regularly.”

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins, who is supporting the shopkeepers, said the issue was blighting on the attractive town centre.

“My business is being affected tremendously, somebody is going to get killed out here from the stuff, that’s a definite.”

Bridget claimed police are constantly moving young people on from the area, who are snorting drugs and using homemade bongs in clear sight.

Nick Booth, police sergeant for the town centre, said a lot of time was being spent in troublesome Packers Row.

He added: “This is an area we are having to target for anti-social behaviour and perceived drug use. Kids are buying legal highs from Reefer and using them there.

“Members of the public believe it is a big drug problem and it is still causing people harassment, alarm and distress.

“Some of these young people are actually turning to criminality to fund this drug habit.

“We are targeting the area a lot, certainly the alley by O-Takuda as they do congregate quite regularly.”

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins, who is supporting the shopkeepers, said the issue was blighting on the attractive town centre.

He added: “Retailers are under siege from people who have taken legal highs or are involved in their distribution. This is a blight on our town centre, frightening for the vast majority and brings shame on all those involved in it.

“I will be attempting to bring the issue of legal highs to Parliament.

“Legal highs are only called ‘legal’ because they haven’t been banned yet and people need to be aware that the name in no way indicates they are safe to use. People have been killed using these products and they continue to be a significant health risk.

Sgt Booth said the police had “their hands tied”, as the issue is difficult to manage.

He added: “Ideally we could do with a change in the law at government level that enables us to tackle them effectively.

“Although the drugs are legal, they are similar to illegal drugs in the effects they have.”

No one at Reefer wanted to comment on the story but previously owner Mark Rushby has told the Derbyshire Times that products such as Clockwork Orange which is on sale in the shop, are not for children and the packets do warn they are not for human consumption.

He added the shop had a strict ID policy.

 

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