Rector calls for more police patrols to make churches safer
PUBLISHED: 21:10 17 April 2008 | UPDATED: 13:12 05 October 2010
A LEADING church rector has called for police patrols to be stepped up to make the East End's churches safer. More manpower is needed for the 'safer neighbourhood' teams to tackle drug dealing, prostitution and yob behaviour in churchyards, he says.
By Victoria Huntley
A LEADING church rector has called for police patrols to be stepped up to make the East End's churches safer.
More manpower is needed for the 'safer neighbourhood' teams to tackle drug dealing, prostitution and yob behaviour in churchyards, The Rev Gordon Warren insists.
The rector of Hawkesmoor's imposing St Anne's in Limehouse, speaking to the East London Advertiser as part of its 'safer churchyards' campaign, said: "We've had to close the churchyard completely in recent months.
"Alcoholics drink in the churchyard all day, use the church itself as a urinal, both men and women, then vomiting next to the tombstones.
"Drug dealers are also using the churchyard and from dusk we get prostitutes waiting by the gates.
"We know they're using the churchyard because we've found needles and condoms all over the place."
Teams of 'safer neighbourhood' police officers are being deployed in the East End.
But the senior churchman believes they are stretched to the limits.
The Limehouse parish church has only just started to reopen the grounds after months of closure. It is fully open on Sundays, but only one gate is left open during the week.
"We've found people causing trouble don't come in now because there isn't an easy escape route," the rector revealed.
"I hated having to close the churchyard, but it seems to have done the trick in terms of moving the troublemakers on.
"We no longer have drug dealers and prostitutes hanging around and the alcoholics also seem to have moved on."
He added: "There are groups of kids that hang around, but generally they don't cause trouble.
"If they get a bit loud, I'll go and kick a football around with them for five minutes."
The Advertiser launched its campaign to make East End churchyards safer after a vicious attack on Canon Michael Ainsworth in his own churchyard at St George-in-the-East in Shadwell last month, which left him with two black eyes.
Local authority, community and faith group leaders have been in talks with police this week to plan improvements to safety in churchyards and the grounds of other religious buildings, including synagogues and mosques.
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