IMAGINE being a small business owner trying to make a living but having your shop broken into every few months. Or trying to attract customers when there is someone taking drugs or aggressively begging for money near your front door.

These are some of the issues traders in Springbourne are dealing with on a daily basis. And with limited support from the under-resourced council and police, these business owners feel they are in the ‘forgotten district of Bournemouth’.

Earlier this week, a meeting of the Springbourne and East Cliff Residents’ group was held so local councillors and police could address the community’s concerns. Organiser Mark Elkins remarked it was a “record turnout”.

'The council makes us jump through hoops'

First to speak was David Walters, of We Fix in Holdenhurst Road. His shop was vandalised by would-be burglars twice in a matter of months.

But when he applied for planning permission for a roller shutter door to protect his business, it took six months of ‘jumping through hoops’ for his request to be granted.

“The planning process is an absolute joke,” he told the meeting. “In the end we got a roller shutter we didn’t really want because it’s slatted. Apparently where we are is a ‘beautiful area’ and a solid shutter door would ‘spoil the area’.”

“Trading is getting harder and harder. Customers are harassed by aggressive beggars when they leave the shop – it’s unacceptable.

“It took the police six to eight weeks to check the CCTV after our shop was broken into twice. And nothing came of it.

“The street lighting is a joke – they might as well put candles up. They’re so high up and so low powered that people can hide in the shadows.”

Representing Bournemouth council at the meeting was community enforcement and anti-social behaviour manager Matthew King. He said while he sympathised with Mr Walter’s concerns about break-ins, “if you suddenly had a hundred shops with solid grey shutters, [Springbourne] would look like a slum”.

Quoting a response from the planning department, he said there was a “need to preserve the visual amenities of the locality and the quality of the environment”. Attendees jeered at his words.

Police say 'we're doing enough' – but we're not telling you'

Addressing the concerns over a perceived rise in drug crime and anti-social behaviour, Neighbourhood Inspector Jon Wasey said latest statistics did not show an increase.

However, he admitted: “We have got a very good detection rate but you don’t know that because we’re not telling you enough.

“Drugs are one of our core priorities because people feel that is the catalyst for most of the crime going on. We are hell-bent on targeting the people who cause a mass nuisance to society, and we have good results,” he said.

His colleague Sergeant Ashley White and her team arrested two 17-year-old boys, one from London, on Monday after reports of alleged drug dealing in Kings Park.

And, in December, a home in Northcote Road, which was linked to drug-related activity, was served with a three-month closure order.

“My team are committed to targeting and looking at addresses used as outposts by drug dealers,” he told the meeting. “Drug dealing is hard to detect and investigate, drug taking is very difficult as well. I do empathise that you are suffering from some of this.

“Our other tactics include carrying out stop and searches when necessary and visiting the addresses of vulnerable members of the community who have been identified as possible cuckooing victims, having been targeted by county line drug dealers.”

He urged people to continue reporting information to the police, but reminded them to “use the appropriate channels”, such as 101.

Sgt White added: “We have to grade the calls coming in. If someone’s house is being burgled and someone is using drugs, and they’re not necessarily threatening you, resources are going to be directed to where that house is being broken into.”

Residents say they see drug addicts injecting in public (and police can't respond)

One resident said: “I’ve actually opened my front door to take my rubbish out and there’s been someone with their trousers down and injecting.”

She phoned the police but did not get the response she wanted.

“It does come down to threat, risk and harm. Someone who’s just using drugs – yes, that’s unpleasant and we can deal with that slow time – but if we were to respond to every single call about someone using drugs, we wouldn’t get to any other call. When someone’s threatening, that’s completely different,” Sgt White responded.

“A lot of these people are very vulnerable and need to be signposted to the right support. And then it’s about targeting the area and seeing what we can do, along with our partners,” she added.

Springbourne, East Cliff and Boscombe are 'worst areas of Bournemouth'

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Elkins said: “The police are in a very difficult position as they’ve lost a lot of numbers, but it was very disturbing when Sergeant White said there weren’t the resources to respond quickly to drug-taking and drug-dealing.

“Springbourne, East Cliff and Boscombe are far worse than other areas of Bournemouth, and there’s a level of underreporting.

“Hopefully we can get some brainstorming going following this meeting so the community can say ‘this was achieved’.”

A second report on Tuesday’s meeting will be published in the Daily Echo soon.