Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Villagers worried about increase in drug dealing

Villagers worried about increase in drug dealing

DRUG dealing is taking in place in Benson, according to residents.

Villagers say they have witnessed illegal activity in Littleworth Road and in a shelter at the Sunnyside recreation area.

The shelter, which was erected in memory of a teenager from the village who died tragically, may be removed by the parish council.

Two weeks ago, a man who collapsed in Littleworth Road after taking ketamine told paradmedics that he came to Benson every day to buy drugs.

Leigh Edmond, who lives in the street, raised the issue at a meeting of Benson Parish Council.

She said: “I want to raise a concern among some residents in Littleworth Road about what appears to be a concerning and increasing drug issue developing in the area.

“There has been some quite suspicious activity by the children's playground by the parish hall and in Littleworth Road.

“A young man was collapsed in Littleworth Road next to a motorcycle and it became apparent he had taken some ketamine.

“Police were called and an ambulance. He told one of the ambulance staff that he comes to Benson every day for drugs.” Mrs Edmond said car drivers had been seen stopping in the road to carry out what were believed to be drug deals.

She added: “There’s a shelter not far from the children’s playground on the recreational area where there seems to be what are perceived as drug deals taking place. Some paraphernalia was found up there by a local resident.”

Mrs Edmond said that police had carried out door-to-door enquiries following the incident involvng the collapsed man, adding: “I sensed from what the police officers said that it was attached to a broader issue and not just an isolated issue.”

She added that residents were becoming “quite concerned” and she and a neighbour  were setting up a Neighbourhood Watch group for the street.

The shelter was erected in memory of 17-year-old Faye Grundy who died in a jet ski accident on Queenford Lake at Berinsfield in August 1997.

In a statement read by parish clerk Elizabeth Stanley, her mother Mandy Jones said the shelter had cost just under £5,000 when it was installed to give young people a place to meet. She said that if the shelter was removed then it should be replaced with something befitting her daughter’s memory.

Council chairman Bill Pattison said that the play area was due to be refurbished and this could include a tribute to Faye.

“If we could name the area for Faye that would go a long way towards compensating her family for the loss of the shelter,” he added.

He said the recreation area was the council’s land but he was also concerned about a problem with drug dealing in the village as a whole.

Councillor Pattison urged Mrs Edmond to tell residents to report any illegal activity or evidence of drug use to the police.

Vice-chairwoman Patricia Baylis said that removing the shelter would just move the problem somewhere else in the village.

She said: “I’m actually quite concerned about the drug issue that has come up over the last week or so. We have always had users of marijuana and dealers here and there in the village but what has been happening recently is concerning. People dealing drugs in Littleworth Road and collapsing is absolutely no good at all for the village.”

She said she wanted the council to liaise with Thames Valley Police to see what could be done. 

Councillor Teresa McTeague said there had been drug-related problems at the Rivermead recreation area over the summer and “activities” in Preston Crowmarsh.

Councillor Philip Murray said: “It’s bad enough if you’ve got, as it were, one-to-one exchanges, low level dealers. My concern would be that Benson is a place that’s good for ‘county lines’. We all know what that can do for a community. We need to understand what, if anything, we can do.”

County lines refer to illegal drugs being transported from one area to another, often across police and council boundaries, usually by children or vulnerable people who are coerced into it by gangs.

Councillor Ian Skeels said there could be a potential problem with the new skate park due to be built as part of the new Cala Homes development north of Littleworth Road.

He said this would attract people from “quite a distance”. The council agreed to approach the police for advice.

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