Police have shut down a notorious crack house – just doors away from a 102-year-old woman’s home.
For around three years residents lived in fear as the occupants visited the property on the family estate, knocking on doors in the middle of the night and asking homeowners for money for taxis.
Terrified families contacted the police dozens of times as the house, on Lache Hall Crescent, fell into disrepair, the garage was set on fire and sheds were broken into in nearby properties.
Littered with used syringes, needles containing traces of heroin and a crack pipe made from an inhaler, police closed down the crack house at number 45 during an operation today (Thursday, November 27).
A mother cradling a baby looked out of her window as workmen boarded-up every window and door to the rundown property, and officers plastered posters reading “This premises closed to prevent drug abuse” on the boards.
A man, who lives just metres from the property and does not wish to be named, said he had to check his 102-year-old neighbour’s doors and windows were locked every single night to make sure she was safe.
Speaking as officers in a riot van pulled away following the two and a half hour long boarding up operation, he said: “I am pleased to see it go, but what happens, where do we go from here?
“I've had them turning up at my door, I've had them asking for bike pumps."
As police were boarding up the house one of the tenants, a 37-year-old, walked up with his dog and tried to get into the property – but was told to leave by officers guarding the scene.
“It’s nothing to do with me and my brother, I've stayed out of trouble for a year,” he told The Chronicle as he was walking away, claiming he had been set up by police and it was the fault of other people who had stayed in the house.
Officers were able to board up the house under Section 80 of the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act – a new legislation which was only brought into force last month – after gaining a court order from Chester magistrates this morning (November 27).
The court order means that no-one is allowed into 45 Lache Hall Crescent for a period of three months, and anyone who does enter is liable to arrest and up to six months in prison, a £5,000 fine, or both.
Speaking outside the house Sergeant Mark Woollam, of Chester Outer Neighbourhood Engagement Team (NET), explained the order was to stop squatters and the tenants coming back, but they would not be prosecuted and even if they were, the result for the community would not be ‘sufficient’.
“There are lots of discarded used syringes, it is generally in a poor state,” said Sgt Woollam.
“The drug users who have been coming here have caused fear among local residents. There has been an increase in crime in the area, including shed break-ins.
“They would knock on the neighbour’s doors and ask to use the phone or for change for a taxi. It does cause anxiety and fear of crime.
“This is quite an affluent cul-de-sac so the impact has probably been more significant because of that.”
The closure is the first time a privately rented property has been boarded up by police in Chester, and is one of the first crack houses in the country to be boarded up under the new Government legislation, said MP Stephen Mosley.
“I have had a fantastic response from the local residents who are so pleased it has been boarded up,” the Chester MP said, speaking from outside the house which had a fire in the garage in 2013 which was still a burnt-out wreck.
“This has been a poison in the community for an awful long time. I have had calls and complaints from residents for years.
“It has been a really difficult situation; we have not been able to remove people from a private property, this legislation only came into place last month.”
Over the next three months officers will conduct regular checks of the premises to ensure the closure order is not breached, police have said.
The landlord was at the court hearing and was pleased with the outcome, said police.