In­side the sleepy cul-de-sac with the fresh spike in crime

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS - By CONOR GOGARTY

AT a glance Stow Court looks like your typ­i­cal sleepy cul-de-sac. But the es­tate has seen more crime re­ports in the last year than any other part of St Mark’s - which is it­self the area of Chel­tenham worst-hit by re­cent of­fences, out­side the town cen­tre.

Though it lies off the busy Glouces­ter Road, Stow Court gave off a peace­ful, non­de­script air when we vis­ited on a frosty Wednes­day morn­ing.

There were few peo­ple to be seen around the cul-de-sac, which is made up of two and three-floor red-brick blocks of flats, next to a car park.

Yet the res­i­dents we in­ter­viewed re­vealed a very dif­fer­ent side to the es­tate, telling of joyrid­ing, drug deal­ing, van­dal­ism, thefts and ar­son.

One woman said she had lived in Stow Court for eight years, but is hop­ing to leave soon be­cause of the crime prob­lems.

The res­i­dent, who wished to re­main anony­mous, said: “It’s just not very good around here any­more.”

She claimed teenagers aged about 14 are re­spon­si­ble for most of the trou­ble.

One in­ci­dent around Christ­mas 2017 in­volved youths “joyrid­ing” a stolen car into the es­tate while chased by po­lice, she said.

They left the car in the Stow Court car park be­fore run­ning un­der the barbed wire fence at the edge of the cul-de-sac and into Lans­down In­dus­trial Es­tate, the woman claimed.

She added: “I’ve seen kids start fires in the bins four times, and a few years ago they even set fire to a car.

“They broke into the bike shed about five times around this time last year. It would keep get­ting re­paired and they would just kick the door down again.

“My hus­band had a £400 sports bike stolen. Ev­ery­one has given up on us­ing the shed. My hus­band keeps his new bike in our block.”

An­other res­i­dent we in­ter­viewed, who did not give his name, sees what he sus­pects to be drug deal­ing about twice a day in Stow Court.

He said: “I no­tice ex­pen­sive cars come in from Glouces­ter Road and slowly re­verse back, of­ten in the early evenings.

“There will be an ex­change, where some­one ap­proaches the car, and then it will just be driven away.

“It is wor­ry­ing but I sup­pose it is some­thing that goes on. If it wasn’t hap­pen­ing here it would be some­where else.”

The man, who has lived in Stow Court for four years, added that he feels safe in his home de­spite his con­cerns over crime.

There were 132 re­ports of crime in St Mark’s in De­cem­ber, 52 more than the sec­ond worst-hit area, Hester’s Way.

Six of the in­ci­dents were re­ported in Stow Court - four of an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour, one of drugs and an­other of vi­o­lence or a sex­ual of­fence.

This made it the worst hotspot in St Mark’s for crime re­ports in De­cem­ber, as it was in 2018 as a whole.

Over the year, a to­tal of 70 in­ci­dents in the es­tate were re­ported to po­lice.

A Glouces­ter­shire po­lice spokesman said drug deal­ing and at­tempted thefts from cars are among the is­sues to have plagued Stow Court in re­cent months.

Not all the res­i­dents we spoke to felt Stow Court has a sig­nif­i­cant crime is­sue.

One woman who has lived there three years, and did not want to be named, said she was sur­prised to hear it was a crime hotspot.

She added: “You do get girls in their teens who come here and drink.

“When the Chel­tenham Fes­ti­val is on you get peo­ple com­ing from the train sta­tion, run­ning around drunk.

“But there are no real prob­lems as far as I am con­cerned.”

Lea Pu­usemp, a 22-year-old Univer­sity of Glouces­ter­shire stu­dent from Es­to­nia, said she has en­joyed liv­ing in Stow Court over the last 18 months.

She added: “We had a noisy neigh­bour, and there was a lot of yelling go­ing on, but he moved out a few months ago. I re­ally like it here.”

The polic­ing team for St Mark’s said it is fo­cused on tack­ling crime and an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour.

“In re­cent months, drug deal­ing and at­tempted thefts from cars has been high­lighted to us and we are work­ing with other agen­cies to ad­dress these and en­cour­age re­port­ing,” a po­lice spokesman said.

The num­ber of chil­dren liv­ing in poverty in Chel­tenham is 43 per cent - 16.15 per cent higher than the na­tional av­er­age.

The spokesman said poverty can be a con­tribut­ing fac­tor in crime and an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour prob­lems.

He added: “The Con­stab­u­lary is part of a year of ac­tion be­ing co­or­di­nated by Chel­tenham Bor­ough Coun­cil to en­sure chil­dren and young peo­ple in the town are not left be­hind.

“As­pir­ing to be a child friendly county that gives chil­dren and young peo­ple the very best start in life is of vi­tal im­por­tance to all our fu­tures.

“We’re sup­port­ing the plan along with other agen­cies in­clud­ing Chel­tenham Bor­ough Homes, pri­mary schools, Chel­tenham Trust and Glouces­ter­shire County Coun­cil.”

De­tails on how to re­port com­mu­nity con­cerns in your area can be found on the lo­cal polic­ing team pages of glouces­ter­shire.po­lice.uk [email protected]­plc.com

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