Drunken troublemakers menacing families visiting Alban Arena panto

PUBLISHED: 06:00 15 December 2016

Sign outside the Alban Arena

Sign outside the Alban Arena

Archant

Drunks and beggars are creating a disturbing drama near the Alban Arena, by defecating, urinating and cursing close to families visiting the annual Christmas pantomime.

The Herts Advertiser has been told that customers and staff feel ‘threatened’ by vagrants loitering in the Civic Centre outside the theatre, where Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs is being performed over the festive season.

A source told the paper that he heard police officers being told to ‘f*** off’ by one drunk man recently, who ignored efforts to remove him from the central thoroughfare.

The local added: “They have been peeing and pooing in the bushes and drinking alcohol in the open. It’s been rubbish for years, but over the last couple of weeks it has got so much worse.”

A man who works at the theatre said that police had recently been called after a fight near the Arena.

Yet little action has been taken by either Herts Police or the district council, despite signs in the vicinity warning against such anti-social behaviour.

Two notices near the theatre state it “is an alcohol control area. A police officer, PCSO or authorised person can ask you to stop drinking alcohol”.

Furthermore, failure to comply could result in confiscation of people’s alcohol, arrest and a fine of up to £500, under Designated Public Places legislation.

Despite this, the man said, “people are drinking outside, and urinating in the bushes. They have also been known to defecate there. It’s not a good advert for St Albans, especially when you come to the city for the pantomime as a family.”

Often such shows serve as an introduction for a child to theatre – and with this season’s show featuring EastEnders star Rita Simons, Bob Golding and Ian Kirkby, about 45,000 tickets have been sold.

The man said that after recent aggressive behaviour by people loitering in the Civic Centre, some theatre-goers had said they felt frightened by their presence.

He added: “They are normally fairly placid. There was one asleep in the council’s doorway last Friday night, and another slumped in the Ladbrokes doorway.

“They might be begging here because they think there are richer pickings in St Albans, but there seems to have been a recent influx of people – it’s a mystery, and it does worry staff and visitors.

“They have come into the premises, wanting to use the facilities. One threatened to go to the toilet on the floor, and he was told to get out. For a city centre like St Albans, it’s a disgrace. There needs to be a drinking ban. The police seem to have no power. It is becoming more of a problem.”

Another local businessman, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “It’s been going on for some time. They sit out there, drinking. They go into the bushes to store their drink there.

“They don’t normally cause any problems but it’s very unsightly. And children don’t want to be near them because they are very loud and swear a lot. I haven’t complained to the police or the council, as they don’t cause any direct trouble.”

A spokeswoman for Herts Police said officers had been called to reports of a fight in the Civic Centre, outside the Arena last Friday (9), at about 9pm.

However, no-one had been assaulted, and officers established there had been ‘an argument’.

She said while local officers were unaware that people had been relieving themselves in public areas, they did know that alcohol was being consumed near the Arena.

The spokeswoman added: “We are working with the council and homeless charities on that problem.”

Neil Kieran, the council’s principal community protection officer, said the authority was aware of complaints about recent anti-social behaviour outside the Alban Arena.

He said the community protection team “has been briefed by the Arena’s management and has been monitoring the area to see what has been happening.

“It is a very disappointing development with the Alban Arena being especially busy during the panto season.

“We are looking at ways of resolving the problem and are arranging a meeting with the police to discuss how best to proceed.

“Anyone who does witness an act of anti-social behaviour should report it to the police by calling 101.”

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