Sex, drugs and violence mar town play centre

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A popular play area has become a centre for drug use, sex and antisocial behaviour, say the appalled managers of a youth club.

Berkhamsted Town Council took over management of the Lagley Meadow Youth Centre from Dacorum Borough Council in August 2011 after rising costs put the club at risk of closure.

They secured a £15,000 grant to resurface its astroturf pitch, but in the latest attack at the Lagley Meadow Recreation Ground, where the centre is based, three kick boards separating the pitch from the grass around it were broken.

Vandals threw the wooden boards onto the roof of the youth centre and cracked a tile, causing a total of about £200 worth of damage.

Town council clerk Gary Cox said: “We can’t quite comprehend why people would want to do this to facilities that have been provided for their enjoyment.

“We also know that it is a fairly secluded site close to the road and seems to be a collection point for drug-taking and other matters.

“Courting couples is the way my parents would have described it, and there has been some evidence that they have been courting quite vigorously.”

A disused toilet block near the youth centre was previously highlighted as an anti-social behaviour hotspot in a report by police community support officer James McLean.

Former Berkhamsted mayor Geraldine Corry complained last year that the site and the derelict former Victory Road Health Clinic, in nearby Gossoms Ryde, attracted anti-social behaviour to Lagley Meadow.

Mr Cox said the behaviour was spoiling the site for everybody and added: “It’s like trashing your own bedroom, to be honest.”

Sgt Peter Huffer, who covers the Berkhamsted area, said police did stop a 16-year-old boy who was carrying a small amount of cannabis in the area just before Christmas. He was given a warning by the Herts Police youth offending team.

Sgt Huffer said: “Officers regularly patrol the area and if anybody has any information about drug use, contact the local neighbourhood team on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.”