12:47PM, Tuesday 28 July 2020
Nitroux oxide canisters found in Ockwells Park
Community wardens are working with the council’s young person’s substance misuse officer after it was revealed wardens are finding nitrous oxide canisters ‘all over the borough’.
Councillors discussed the issue after being given an update into the work and role of community wardens at the communities overview and scrutiny panel on Thursday.
Community warden lead Andy Aldridge said there were currently 19 wardens, down from 25 following a restructure in April, which act as the ‘eyes and ears of the borough’.
Cllr Catherine del Campo (Lib Dem, Furze Platt) said: “I’ve observed just from litter picking huge increase in drug taking this year compared to the same time last year.
“Last year we did knife sweep in Oaken Grove Park and found one nitrous oxide canister, this summer we’ve been taking away bags full of them.
“Clearly there’s been an explosion in drug taking and I’m sure its all linked back to people feeling locked up and frustrated, lots of youngsters are out taking drugs.”
Cllr Gurpreet Bhangra (Con, Boyn Hill) added: “We also have the same problem in our ward and our parks, that is a big problem we need to tackle
“It’s a national problem all over this country, hopefully they’ll be some legislation coming to parliament addressing this problem. It’s a very dangerous substance being abused by children that don’t know about the effects of nitrous oxide.”
Mr Aldridge said the wardens were working with the Royal Boroughs’ young people substance misuse officer.
He said: “It’s the in thing at the minute and it’s a cheap way of getting high and we know the effects are quite dangerous for young people.
“We will continue to do that because we’re finding that all over the borough at the minute.”
Found in Ockwells Park
Cllr Donna Stimson (Con, St Mary’s) added that she had an issue at Kidwells Park with kids shouting in the morning at 6am ‘waking everyone up’ and older groups partying until 2am.
She added: “I’m getting 15 to 20 calls a day saying Friday nights are going to be terrible at Kidwells Park.”
Mr Aldridge said he was aware of the issue but needed police assistance due to the risk involved with wardens attending.
Councillors also heard during the meeting that Royal Borough wardens have increased powers previously only carried out by police.
He said: “We were never able to ask for people’s name and address but we now have that power. If someone walked off or gave us Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck it now becomes a secondary offence so that was a really big one for us along with body and video that has really helped getting compliance when we need it on the street.”
Tributes were also paid to community warden Dave Lee who died from coronavirus in April.
Mr Aldridge said: “I couldn’t be more proud of the team for what we’ve gone through the last four or five months.
“We had a death of a colleague which really hit the team quite hard yet they still turned up for work, we still sent them out on the street.
“We were probably one of very few services that kept a ground force who went out on the streets and engaged with rough sleepers and whoever we came across. I was and still am very proud of what they are doing.”
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