Our seaside resort is being overrun by mobs of yobs flooding the beach with hippy crack… now we’re fighting back | The Sun

IT was once a bustling seaside resort that took in hundreds of Londoners every summer.

But now Clacton-on-Sea has fallen into disrepair with canisters of nitrous oxide, also known as hippy crack, discarded along the seafront and graffiti covering empty shops.

Residents told the Sun the town centre has a sense of foreboding thanks to menacing gangs of youths roaming the town and threatening residents in the evening.

Vanessa Bedford, 36, was horrified when yobs attacked her son during his shift at a fast food chain.

"When my son worked in McDonald's he got thrown down the stairs because he refused to give some kids free ketchup," she claimed.

"He was regularly threatened and once got beaten up outside by a group of teenagers."


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Clacton-on-Sea has been identified by centre-right think tank Onward as one of five neighbourhood crime hotspots in England and Wales.

It is among Essex's top 20 most dangerous towns and has 122 crimes per 1,000 people.

Threatened at knife point

Vanessa, who lives in nearby Frinton and refused to be photographed because of fear of reprisals,was in town to do her shopping – the only thing she still comes into Clacton for.

"I've been threatened with a knife for telling a group of kids to stop harassing an old lady," she said.

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"They claimed they'd get me back. It's just a horrible atmosphere. I spend as little time as possible in the town."

Her fears about gangs of teens roaming the streets largely unchecked were echoed by many of the people we spoke to.

Several wanted to see a larger police presence in the town and claimed they rarely saw cops doing on-foot patrols.

Kebab shop worker Alex Evans, 37, won't walk home alone when her shift finishes at 9pm as she doesn't feel safe.

"We have a lot of fights around here on the weekends," she said.

"I've lived here for four years and it's steadily got worse and worse.

"Police do turn up if we call them when things kick off but I wish they'd have a bigger presence before things get violent."

'Barely any bobbies on the beat'

Last year 646 arson attacks, 296 shoplifting incidents and 3,221 violent and sexual offences were reported, according to Crime Rate UK.

One resident who has witnessed the growing unpleasant atmosphere in the town centre is taxi driver Spike Spencer.

"There's a really nasty atmosphere in the town centre now," he said.

"Lots of shouting, swearing and kids chasing women. We don't get a lot of stabbings and stuff but it's just not nice to be in a place you feel frightened.

"I know the older generations feel intimidated by the swearing and shouting of the kids these days.

"I regularly see people crossing the road if they see a group of kids walking towards them. Kids are just behaving in a very threatening way."

The cabbie, 76, also told how he rarely sees any police out and about during his daytime driving shifts.

While he appreciates services are underfunded, he thinks it would help curb some of the nasty behaviour.

Legal highs rampant in the town

Some residents claim they haven't seen evidence of any issues first-hand – be it littering or violence.

The lack of rubbish is in part thanks to the dedicated efforts of Clacton Volunteer Litter Pickers.

The group spends two days a week scouring residential areas to remove any discarded rubbish and they say they have collected more than 800 cannisters of hippy crack since summer last year.

Under plans revealed last month, laughing gas – as it is also known – will be banned in a new antisocial behaviour crackdown by the Government.

Dennis Webb, Bernie Goldman and Pan showed The Sun their haul for that day's picking and explained how they had to remove the valve from the canisters to get the metal recycled.

"We find around 20 of these a week," Bernie said.

"What's frightening is how many youngsters are using them and then doing things like driving.

"In summer we see day-trippers using them blatantly on the beach. It's really not nice."

Bernie is hoping to tackle the litter problem if he is elected as a local councillor in the next elections.

He is the driving force behind the volunteer group and is passionate about keeping Clacton clean.

"Rishi Sunak reckons these cause crime but that's a load of rubbish," he said.

"Both are an issue but they're separate. My main issue with the cannisters is they're really hard to recycle. If Dennis didn't remove the valve we'd be left with piles of them in our houses."

250,000 visitors a year

Ian Davidson, Chief Executive of Tendring District Council, said the Onward report had chosen five towns, including Clacton, as levelling up case studies – not because Clacton has particular issues with crime or anti-social behaviour.

“Comments we receive show Clacton, unlike many towns, still has its unique selling point. It’s on the beautiful Essex Sunshine Coast with many great award-winning beaches which have received £36million of investment, amazing gardens, busy shops, and the only air show on the East Coast attracting 250,000 people each year,” Mr Davidson said.

“Like all towns Clacton has some issues with anti-social behaviour but is no worse than many other coastal area towns facing the same wider challenges, and we work hard with partners – including Essex Police – to address this.

“We have a Public Space Protection Order around the town centre giving us and police more powers to tackle such behaviour, while our street cleaning contractors put in a lot of effort to keep the area looking nice. We have had no suggestion that nitrous oxide cannisters are causing a particular problem.

“The annual survey by our Community Safety Partnership reveals fear of crime levels are on a par with other areas. Public safety in Clacton will be further improved thanks to a £400,000 Safer Streets initiative, announced in early March, which will see upgrades to CCTV and other projects to boost safety, especially around the night-time economy.”

Police Inspector Aaron Homatopoulos said: “We recognise that policing alone cannot tackle antisocial behaviour – it relies on communities, the police, local authorities and other agencies working together.

“Our Town Centre Team is an important example of this. The focus of these teams is to be visible in local communities, prevent and reduce crime and continue to build on the high levels of public trust and confidence we work hard to maintain in Essex.

“We also carry out joint patrols with Tendring District Council Ambassadors and will be running an operation over the summer period which will include joint patrols at peak times. For this period, two additional officers have been added to the town team so there will be even more visibility.”

Insp Homatopoulos added: “The Town Centre Team is also running a targeted operation to tackle young person-related antisocial behaviour, including joint patrols and nights of action, during which we work with youth charities to engage with young people to offer education around the impacts of knife crime and exploitation.

“At this stage, the team has identified 13 offenders and they have been issued with acceptable behaviour contracts.”

Acceptable behaviour contracts are agreements between young people, a local authority and the police in which the young person, witnessed by the parent or guardian, agrees not to be involved in specified anti-social acts.

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It is not a legal document but can be used as evidence if subsequent enforcement action is taken.

Insp Homatopoulos added: “I can’t emphasise enough that the officers on patrol are there to keep our communities safe and anyone who has any concerns around incidents they may have seen or antisocial behaviour they may have experienced, please speak to the officers.”

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