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A policing plan was put in place this morning to enforce the closure order granted for a number of properties in Bristol city centre linked to escalating criminality and anti-social behaviour.
The order, under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014, was granted at Bristol Magistrates’ Court yesterday (Thursday 3 June).
Evidence gathered as part of the application for the closure order included six statements from local residents and business owners who described the damage, loss of income and serious nuisance being caused to them as a result of the unlawful occupation.
Officers who attempted to engage with those inside were also subjected to hostility on several occasions. They were repeatedly verbally abused and on a number of occasions had items thrown at them – with one object hitting a police horse in the head.
Specialist officers attended numbers 39-40, 45 and 46 High Street shortly after 6am today (Friday 4 June) to ensure the premises were vacated.
All three buildings were empty.
Chief Inspector Rob Cheeseman said: “Members of the public had described the area as a ‘no go zone’ which is not something we could tolerate.
“As well as empty properties being unlawfully occupied, neighbouring buildings had also sustained damage, while local traders continued to suffer from reduced footfall as a result of people being put off by the anti-social behaviour.
“Once the closure order was granted we could not allow the situation to continue.
“We didn’t know the exact number of people inside the buildings and so significant resources were put in place to ensure any operation to vacate the properties was carried out quickly and safely.
“Those who had occupied the properties had gone to great lengths to prevent others gaining access to them. They’d reinforced the ground floor doors and windows and had used furniture to create barricades.”
He added: “While the buildings were empty, they had been left in a sorry state with rubbish and graffiti throughout and significant damage caused to walls and glazing.
“This decisive action allows property owners to return to their buildings knowing they are not at risk of further damage and they no longer have to fear threats and intimidation.
“They will undoubtedly face significant costs to clean and repair their buildings but I’d like to reassure them we will continue to investigate all offences linked to the properties and do our utmost to hold those responsible accountable.
“Officers will remain on scene to secure the properties and to gather evidence.
“I’d like to thank all businesses and property owners along with all the partners who supported the application for the order and today’s operation.”