Drug taking, drug debt assaults and parking around schools are the three new priorities for Haverhill Police.
The quarterly public meeting of the Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) meeting at the arts centre on Monday (March 10) saw dealing with illegal High Street parking discharged for the first time in years.
In its place were voted drug taking and dealing in public, particularly in Castle Walk and on the recreation ground (37 votes), dealing with drug debt related assaults (25) and parking in Crowland Road, Hollands Road and around schools (15).
The previous three priorities of High Street parking, cyclists without lights and speeding drivers, were all discharged.
Sgt Gary Miller said that 405 £30 fixed penalty notices had been issued to illegally parked cars since the December SNT meeting, making it 607 in the last six months.
“Clearly this shows that people using it are continuing to do so regardless of the message we are trying to send out,” he said.
Police have carried out 22 speed checks, with nine on Wratting Road, three on Bergamot Road, two each in Bumpstead Road, Chivers Road, Hollands Road and Duddery Hill, and one on the bypass.
Of those caught 23 people were given verbal warnings, four were issues with tickets and seven sent on a speed awareness course.
Posters about cycling safety were sent to employers and 31 cyclists were given warnings with three repeat offenders issued a £50 fine.
Other suggested priorities, which were not chosen, included boy racers and drifters in Rookwood Way, Homefield Road, Chivers Road and Greenfields Way, dog fouling, town centre shoplifting and theft of motorbikes.
Gordon Cox said police should do more at Samuel Ward Academy to stop drivers using phones and children crossing without looking, while former mayor Pat Hanlon said illegal parking in Queen Street ought to be targeted as sometimes people had to walk in the road as cars were on the pavement.
Sturmer Hall owner Daniel Hannah said that recently police had responded swiftly to a robbery at the site and arrested a suspect, but warned that High Street parking should not be chosen as this would hinder police from reacting so quickly in the future to similar crimes.
Mr Hannah, who has been given tickets for parking illegally in the High Street several times, said: “They could not have come so quickly if they have to spend their time walking up and down the High Street to prevent others from parking.
“Perhaps you need a parking warden rather than police officers to deal with the issues in the High Street.”
Issuing of tickets can only be done by the police unless Suffolk County Council decriminalise the road – something the authority is reluctant to do.
Susanne Jenner said: “When I come out of my home at 7.20am each day there are two men regularly walking past smoking marijuana.
“I went down to the rec on Sunday and there were eight youths by the play park smoking it.
“In an area like that shouldn’t there be a presence to protect the children in that playground?
“It doesn’t seem like it would be a hard job for a police officer as the children playing there must have been able to smell that substance.”
Insp Ferrie said he would ‘100 per cent’ prefer to have officers on the rec rather than issuing parking tickets on the High Street.
Sgt Miller requested that shoplifting in the town centre and theft of motorbikes, which are being used for anti social behaviour on the A1017, Puddlebrook Playing Fields and Ladygate wood ought to be considered, while Insp Ferrie said drug debt assaults, namely on the Clements and Chalkstone estates, should be considered.
Several people wanted illegal High Street parking to remain, and Insp Ferrie said: “I can tell you it won’t make the slightest bit of difference.”
Once the three priorities had been chosen, he said: “Thank you very much, you have made three very good choices.”
The next SNT meeting will be in June.
For all the latest news see today’s (Thursday, March 13) Echo.