“What happened to our lovely market town?”
That’s the cry of Kettering residents to community leaders and the police as crime and anti-social behaviour has rocketed.
Drug addicts injecting in the streets, vomiting in parks and excessive drinking in public places have become visible across the town in recent weeks and now residents say they have had enough.
The police’s high-profile Operation Viper, which was launched in July and is closing down known drug dens, has also had an impact, with drug users leaving their dens and taking their activities on to the streets.
The drugs crime rate in the town has increased by a third in 12 months and the town is being dubbed as ‘Stabbering’ and ‘Ghetto’ on social media with people posting photos of drug users laying sprawled unconscious in alleyways.
Speaking at last night’s Kettering town forum at the borough council offices, resident Christine Manning told a room packed with members of the public: “There has been a social media frenzy highlighting drug-related anti-social behaviour issues in our town.
“We have become somewhat accepting of beggars in our town.
“Social media has showed us some very graphic images of men and women laying in our streets with drugs paraphernalia around them.
“There are people injecting and smoking illegal substances. What has become of our lovely market town?”
Christine said action needed to be taken to get Kettering “back on the map for the right reasons” and that councillors and the police needed to work with residents to find a solution.
A council gardener also spoke at the meeting and said public parks are being used by addicts and that he has called the police for assistance but that it does not arrive.
He said he regularly cleans up vomit and drug-use debris so that it is not seen by the children and the families who use the parks.
At the meeting neighbourhood sergeant John Hodgson admitted that Operation Viper had led to more visible drug use and appealed for residents to join with police and set up Streetwatch schemes.
Jane Calcott, who is Kettering’s Neighbourhood Watch liaison officer, said she had been approached by the police to get her members involved in Streetwatch.
But she said she had refused as she thought it was dangerous, because people were not given enough training to deal with the situations they may come across.
Labour councillor Mick Scrimshaw said it was clear there was a real issue and asked that Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold attend a Kettering Council meeting to explain the issues.
Deputy council leader Lesley Thurland requested that police go down to trouble hot spots such as Mill Road Park and Rockingham Road Pleasure Park to investigate.
And Mayor James Burton said that he thought the actual crime figures were much higher than reported as residents had stopped calling police because they found it hard to get through.
Chairman of the meeting Lloyd Bunday said the county’s new chief constable, Nick Adderley, would be meeting council officers on October 20.
Sarah Ward, Local Democracy Reporting Service