Boots store erects fence to deter ‘intimidating’ drug users from congregating outside
First it was spikes to keep pigeons from messing up windowsills, then it was high-pitched sonic alarms to drive away troublesome teenagers.
Now a new weapon has been unveiled in the fight against antisocial behaviour, with a chemist in the Capital forced to put up fencing to stop drug users sitting in the window frame.
The metal fixtures were put up around the Boots pharmacy at the Newkirkgate shopping centre, Leith, on the advice of the police, amid reports shoppers and staff felt “intimidated” by gangs.
But there have been warnings that the structure could simply displace the problem, with one resident calling for more to be done to improve the area around the centre.
The fence prevents anyone sitting on the window ledge, but does not come high enough to cover the windows.
It is aimed at serving as a deterrent similar to the spiked fencing used to prevent pigeons roosting on window ledges.
Leith councillor Gordon Munro said: “Boots had to do something about it.
“They were advised to put the fencing up by the police because of the groups of people who appear to have drug or alcohol problems that congregate outside.
“Quite a few of the people that live nearby – not to mention the staff – found them intimidating.
“Things would usually start off OK, but when more of their friends started to come along it would get a bit rowdy.”
Cllr Munro added that the council’s health and safety team would be working to try and find a suitable place for the group to meet.
He said: “I’ve been quite clear that this is not just a police issue, it’s a health and safety issue. The last thing we want to do is displace these people somewhere else.
“I think we need to have various agencies involved and find them a space where they can socialise together, perhaps somewhere where they can find out more about how to wean themselves off whatever they are addicted to.
“That way they are not putting people off shopping in the Kirkgate.”
Last year, a group of young mothers took to the streets to stage an anti-drugs protest at the Newkirkgate, which they said they were too afraid to use.
The mums, all of whom had young babies, said the number of drinkers and drug-takers around the centre meant they could not go there with their children.
One of the mums claimed she had seen incidents of drug dealing outside the Boots store.
Roland Reid, secretary of Leith Central Community Council, said: “What Boots has done may simply move the problem elsewhere.
“The Kirkgate has a particular problem with this sort of thing and addressing it will be quite a challenge. The community council did a survey of problems that affect people in Leith and that came out as one of them.
“There has even been doubts about whether the seating should be there, but I suppose if it is taken away it might be unfair for everybody else.
“Leith has to support a disproportionate number of vulnerable people from Edinburgh and the Lothians, and we are home to quite a number of hostels.
“It may be that as part of the Leith Walk improvement plan there should be a focus on the Kirkgate and how we can make it more attractive to people.”
“Mosquito” devices, which produce a high-pitched sound only audible to people under the age of 25, have been used to stop teenagers congregating around shops, although there have been calls for it to be banned.
A spokesman for Boots was unavailable for comment.
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