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