Alcohol scourge in St Albans’ public gardens

SOME of St Albans’ most beautiful city centre gardens are being shunned by residents because of anti-social behaviour.

Groups of adults congregating in areas such as the Rose Gardens and the Municipal Gardens behind the district council offices are putting people off enjoying the area throughout the day, particularly in the early evening.

Some who work in the city and a business close to the gardens say they often see people drinking in the area, despite warnings against public drinking.

One worker, who walks through the gardens during the day but admits he avoids it after dark, said it could be a place of sanctuary for many who work nearby but at present most avoid it.

He said: “It’s intimidating and I am a big bloke. I try to look like I’m not bothered but I’ve seen other people being heckled and shouted at.

“They’re there in the afternoon, drinking right beneath the sign that warns people not to drink there. They aren’t kids either, they are adults. Adults who I’ve seen drinking and with their children around them.

“These are beautiful gardens that people would sit in but they know that at about three or four in the afternoon, this group will appear and so people don’t go there.”

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The worker, who doesn’t wish to give his name, said that often the group was moved on but just took to loitering outside the Alban Arena or, until recently, close to St Peter’s Church.

Another business, which also wished to remain anonymous for fear of recriminations, said their shop and staff were often targeted by the group.

A member of staff said: “We’ve had things taken and caught people peeing nearby. Whenever they hung around near the church, they would shout things at us whenever we walked through there.”

The member of staff said there were reports that the people living in the Hatfield Road almshouses had also been subject to antisocial behaviour from members of, she believed, the same group. “Apparently, one of them walked into the gardens and in front of people who were sat out, enjoying the sun, pulled down his trousers and went to the toilet. It’s disgusting.

“When the police do come, they just move them on.”

But nearby St Peter’s Church say that although they had significant problems with drink-related antisocial behaviour in and around the church gardens previously , the problem seemed to be abating after working closely with the council and the police.

Church warden Mark Waller said: “Working in partnership and installing a second CCTV camera, we’ve managed to increase the amount of people walking through. We want to encourage people back, they can come to our Garden of Hope at lunchtime or whenever and enjoy it. It’s a beautiful place to come and reflect.

“The problem has largely been solved but it may not ever go away.”

The police say that they are working hard to beat anti-social behaviour which is a neighbourhood priority for the Safer Neighbourhood officers who cover the city centre area.

A spokesperson said: “Working with partners at the district council and those who live or work in the area, police have been carrying out more high visibility patrols and stopping and searching those thought to be involved in anti-social behaviour.

“Where necessary, officers have also served Section 27 orders on those involved in anti-social behaviour, banning them from returning to the area for up to 48 hours. If they do return, they are arrested for breaking the order and criminal prosecution taken against them.

“Evidence gained from Section 27s is also used to take out Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) against repeat offenders, which again will result in criminal prosecution if broken.”