Harrogate Police have stepped up patrols in the town centre after being called to investigate alleged ‘drug dealing’ in the heart of the town’s main shopping area.
In a further sign that the authorities may be cracking down in the build-up to the arrival of hundreds of thousands of cycling fans during the UCI Road World Championships, an eviction notice has been pinned up at the historic cabman’s shelter close to Harrogate Library, a site commonly used by drinkers.
Harrogate, in general, has always been regarded as a low crime area and reports of trouble have never threatened to rival major cities.
But a combination of visible street begging and County Lines crime has alarmed many in Harrogate this year.
Troubling incidents in Oxford Street area involving drink and, possibly, drugs have been raised by fed-up shop keepers who say they have been plagued by anti-social behaviour in recent weeks.
Harrogate Police told the Harrogate Advertiser they would be increasing stop checks and searches where there was suspicious behaviour.
The police said they and their partners were working hard to carry out enforcement and prevention activity in the town.
But Bob Kennedy-Bruyneels, owner of G23 designer menwear store on Cambridge Road and Porters menswear shop on Oxford Street said he had spotted what he thought was drug dealing taking place in the open air last week just yards from his businesses.
Mr Kennedy said: “The situation with drugs, alcohol, fighting, abusing passers by, begging and all round anti-social behaviour, taking place near our shop between St Peter’s Church and the Methodist church on Oxford Street has got to be brought to an end.
“There’s way too much talking and way too much passing the buck.”
Responding to his complaints, Harrogate police said they believed it was certainly suspicious and had sent two police officers to talk to the shop owner.
The eviction notice at the historic cabman’s shelter was posted by Harrogate Borough Council and says “you are required to vacate the land at Library Gardens by 4pm on Tuesday, September 10 otherwise proceedings will be taken to take possession of the land.”
The authorities are hoping that visible street begging and rough sleeping will be reduced by Harrogate Street Aid.
This new initiative supported by all local groups helping the homeless aims to encourage passersby to give to homeless charites rather than street beggars.
It is be launched in late October when the first pay terminal is installed in the town centre.