A public toilet for the disabled in Spalding town centre has been branded a “drug den”.
The loo in Sheep Market was closed just before Christmas following fire damage – possibly from a bin being set alight – and it is littered with drugs paraphernalia.
We were handed photographs of a syringe and pieces of tin foil, both linked to use of the illegal Class A drug heroin, as well as pictures showing walls blackened by fire. One picture shows a sign saying the loo is closed due to vandalism.
Businessman John Lyon told us: “It’s not vandalism – that’s having a drug den in the town centre.
“It’s ruining what was a beautiful town.”
Mr Lyon (70) says he tried to alert police about the disabled loo being misused, but claims he was asked so many questions when he called 101 that he rang off.
Moments later he asked a pub doorman to call police and says he asked the doorman to call police on another night.
Mr Lyon claims police didn’t arrive the first time – he says the police did turn out the second time, but stopped only briefly in Sheep Market before driving off towards The Crescent.
He says on one of the occasions, there were three men in the disabled loo and they had taken their bikes inside with them.
Mr Lyon also claims the Gents loos are monopolised by men who take in beer bottles and sit in the cubicles “to drink and inject”.
Council portfolio holder Roger Gambba-Jones says some councils use special lighting in loos to makes it difficult for drug users to see a vein when they try to inject.
He said: “We are going to have to consider installing that sort of lighting in there, which we haven’t done in the past.”
The councillor would urge anyone who sees a crime in progress to call police on 999 instead of 101.
Mr Lyon claims anyone can get a key from the council for the disabled loo for £2, but Coun Gambba-Jones says there are restrictions here, linked to disability, while the keys – known as radar keys – are available everywhere under a national scheme.
District councillor and landlord Pete Williams said people often use loos at his pub instead of the Sheep Market toilets.
He said: “A lof of people refuse to go in there, they refuse to use them because of the poor state. They know the cleaners do the best job they can but the cleaners are not the police – it’s not a toilet cleaner’s job to police them.”
Coun Williams said South Holland should have its own disabled toilets scheme, install new locks and issue new keys to people who qualify.
The council says repairs to the disabled loo are in the pipeline.
A council spokesman said: “We are aware of the extensive damage to the toilet and we have instructed the necessary repairs. We will re-open the facility as soon as possible but in the meantime we would like to remind people that the disabled toilet facilities are still in operation in Vine Street car park or Winfrey Avenue in Spalding.”
A policespokeman told us: “Basically, the advice for using the 999 system is for when it’s an emergency, when a crime is in progress, when there is danger to life or when violence is being used or threatened.
“It could be argued that the scenario you mention would meet some of that criteria but it is probably more appropriate for a 101 call. In the control room, we use the THRIVE method to assess the appropriate response to calls.”
THRIVE stands for Threat, Harm, Risk, Investigation Opportunities, Vulnerability of the victim and the Engagement level required to resolve the issue. The spokesman said THRIVE is used by a number of forces so police can individually assess every incident and give the most appropriate reponse.
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