Clash over ‘legal high’ users in Wrexham town centre

Reporter:

Staff reporter (Leader Live)

TOWN leaders have clashed over how ‘legal high’ users in Wrexham are being dealt with.

At a meeting of the Town Centre Forum yesterday, Cllr Hugh Jones, lead member for communities, partnerships, public protection and community safety, told members that progress had been made in tackling issues related to psychoactive substances.

He said: “There is now a fully effective partnership between North Wales Police, Wrexham Council, service providers, users and faith groups, meeting on a weekly basis.”

Cllr Jones reminded members that using legal highs and being in public under their influence was not illegal, only dealing is, and there was little legislation that could be used to move people on.

He said: “These substance users are human beings, someone’s son, or daughter, and we need to treat them with dignity and respect, use the law to help get people into recovery. We are making progress.”

But Ruabon’s Cllr Dana Davies said businesses and members of the public were still being put off by the presence of users around town and Rhosddu.

She said the council had trained members of staff who could enforce public space protection orders, but they were not being used, and raised fears that with changes to school transport this year, more youngsters will be around the King Street bus station where some of the problems take place.

Ian Lucas, Labour’s prospective MP for the town, said he felt there should be a place for substance users away from the town centre.

He said: “Businesses on Lord Street are very, very concerned about the issue of individuals taking Spice.

“Police and council staff are working hard to remedy the issue, it is an urgent problem, but businesses are complaining on a daily basis.

“We need somewhere for individuals to go every day and the top priority for the local authority should be a place to take individuals out of the town centre.”

But Cllr Jones hit back, saying the police and council had no powers to take someone away – and that helping with their recovery from addiction was the best solution.

He said: “We don’t want to move the problem elsewhere and what powers have we got to take people to a room somewhere? Who would enforce that?

“The reality is that we don’t have any powers.”

He added: “We have indentified 47 individuals who are the main causes of the problems in Wrexham and we are homing in on them.”

Cllr Jones re-emphasised that help with recovery was the key, but Andy Gallanders, who runs King Street Coffee at the bus station, said he could not understand how 47 people were allowed to cause so many problems for businesses and shoppers.

Town Centre Forum chair Nigel Lewis said there was an “imbalance” in people being fined £75 by council enforcement officers for accidentally dropping litter, with the lack of powers available to deal with legal high users.

He ended the debate by calling for improved communication from all parties, to members of the public, to reflect the good work going on and help with perceptions.

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