THE police were criticised at Wednesday night’s town council meeting, when residents of Anning Road called for action to be taken on serious anti-social behaviour at the teen shelter on the playing field.
Councillors were told that drug-taking and under-age drinking were rife at the shelter, adjacent to the basketball net, intended as a meeting place for children under the age of 16. But the shelter was often occupied by older youths, some of whom regulary turned up in their cars and motorbikes, sometimes as late as 2am.
One resident said there was excessive noise from the shelter at 5am and when he went to investigate he was assaulted by one of the occupants, an incident that was reported to the police.
In a report to the committee operations manager Matt Adamson-Drage told the committee that police had said they carried out regular patrols to the shelter and no official complaints had been received. The residents, however, said they had never seen a police officer at the site and several incidents had been reported for which crime numbers had been issued.
One mother who lives close to the shelter said her son was frightened to go into the park when the shelter was occupied by the older youths and she did not want him to see what was going on in the shelter. On one occasion a bottle of Coke was thrown into her garden, narrowly missing a 10-month old baby.
Another resident said a couple “simulating sex” had been witnessed and another said drug paraphernalia had been found in and around the shelter.
Reports have also been received of an altercation between the parent of a young boy attending football training in the playing field and a youth smoking cannabis, an incident that he been reported to the police.
When the matter was first raised by residents Councillor Cheryl Reynolds, who was one of the prime movers in the council’s skatepark in Charmouth Road and new play equipment in the playing field, agreed to talk to the children using the shelter.
Councillor Reynolds told Wednesday’s meeting that she visited the site on six separate occasions and there had been some improvement. But now the problem had escalated and they had to find a solution.
This view was supported by the Mayor, Councillor Michaela Ellis, who said it would be unfair on the children for which the shelter was intended if it was removed.
The strongest condemnation of the lack of a police presence in Lyme came from Councillor Derek Hallett. He reminded members that the residents of Lyme were paying 52 per cent of their council tax towards the police and were getting nothing in return.
He told the meeting: “At a time not so long ago we had two PSCOs and four police officers. Now there are none. We keep talking about this but we do nothing. You are just not listening to the people here tonight.”
The mayor, who has had talks with Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill about the policing of Lyme, said she had seen a police car parked in the Woodmead Halls last weekend and two police officers walking into town so there was a greater police presence than there used to be.
A number of councillors commented that if the teen shelter was moved to a different location, the problem would just move with it.
Councillors voted 6-2 in favour of removing the shelter from its present position and storing it for possible re-erection if matters improved with the police. The proposition was opposed by Councillors Ellis and Reynolds.
Mr Adamson-Drage said a light had been erected on the end of the Candles of The Cobb pavilion, directed towards the shelter, but one of the residents said this was easy to cover by those abusing the facility.
On the suggestion of Councillor Jeff Scowen, it was also agreed to consider putting up a camera high up on a pole with spikes to protect it as part of the council’s planned CCTV initiatives.
The recommendation to remove the shelter from the playing field will now go before the full council in September for final ratification.