Unauthorised visitors to two Leeds tower blocks could face arrest or prosecution as part of a crackdown on drugs and anti-social behaviour which have been blighting the lives of residents.
The three-month partial closure order applies to the common areas of council-owned Clayton Court and Clayton Grange, in Fillingfir Drive, West Park, and effectively bans anyone who is not a resident or invited guest.
It follows complaints about groups congregating in and around the premises to use and sell drugs – primarily cannabis – while causing trouble and being abusive to residents.
The order, granted under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, was secured by officers from Operation Leodis, a team funded by Leeds City Council to tackle mainly housing-related anti-social behaviour.
If reports are made of people breaching the order, police would check whether they had a valid reason to be in the buildings. Anyone convicted of breaching a closure order could be jailed for up to a year or receive a large fine.
Specially trained police drugs dogs are also being regularly deployed at the site to deter those involved and reassure residents.
We will not tolerate behaviour that blights the lives of others, and this latest action should serve as a clear warning to those who refuse to listen to advice and persist in making peoples’ lives a misery.Chief Inspector Jackie Marsh
The same drugs sweeps are also being carried out at Queenswood Heights and Queenswood Court, in Queenswood Drive, where residents have been having similar issues.
Chief Inspector Jackie Marsh, who heads neighbourhood policing in west Leeds, said: “This latest action is part of a zero tolerance approach that we are taking to tackle the drugs and anti-social behaviour issues that have been impacting on the lives of residents at both of these sites.
“The closure order at the Claytons is a very welcome additional tool which means that anyone who thinks they can get away with using the blocks as a place to hang out and take drugs will be liable to face arrest and prosecution.
“The order will give real support to the ongoing partnership work we have been doing there and we hope residents will see significant improvements.
“We will be continuing to mount regular patrols using specialist drugs dogs both in the buildings themselves and in the surrounding area.
“We will not tolerate behaviour that blights the lives of others, and this latest action should serve as a clear warning to those who refuse to listen to advice and persist in making peoples’ lives a misery.
“We will continue to monitor the situation in this area and take appropriate action to make sure these issues are not just displaced elsewhere.”
Local Labour councillor John Illingworth said: “People who don’t live there and have no business being there simply should not be there, it is as simple as that. That is what police are trying to achieve.
“It is a fairly new piece of legislation, it is designed to tackle low level anti-social behaviour and they are doing their best with it.
“It is potentially an effective remedy. I would sooner not have anti-social behaviour in the first place, but if we do have it we need to experiment with what can be done.
“We have just done a big refurbishment scheme at these two blocks, that has been very successful, we have had exterior cladding put on the blocks so they are warmer.
“That is why we are so keen to look after them, to make sure they get the benefit of that investment.”
The Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 gives the Police and local authorities the power to issue a closure notice which can last for up to 48 hours before applying to the Magistrates Court to obtain a closure order.
Whilst closure orders were in existence before the Act, the new legislation is said to have prompted an increase in their use as a housing management tool.
The powers have already been used in Leeds, most recently to close Wellington Stores in the middle of the Holdforth estate in New Wortley, which had become a magnet for crime and disorder.
The closure order was instigated after a group of up to 30 people were involved in an incident where police officers and their vehicles were pelted with bricks and bottles. The building has since been demolished by Leeds city council.
In 2015, two drug den flats were shut down by officials in Leeds after complaints from other residents about filthy and dangerous living conditions. The properties – 89 Wortley Heights and 68 Clyde Grange, both in Wortley – caused misery for neighbours by being used as a meeting place by addicts.
Elsewhere, in November 2014, Dacorum Borough Council obtained a closure order to close a property in Hemel Hampstead for three months.
Use of class A drugs were suspected at the property and the police had been called out to the property on numerous occasions, including a number of calls relating to alleged violent incidents.
To report incidents or pass on information call West Yorkshire Police on 101 or Leeds Anti-Social Behaviour Team on 0113 222 4402.