Rise in verbal abuse hurled at shoppers by rough sleepers

COUNCILLOR Francis Drake

‘DISTURBED’ rough sleepers are frightening visitors and residents in Weymouth.

The recent new menace involves ordinary shoppers or holidaymakers suddenly being confronted by a highly aggressive and verbally abusive individual who rants at them before moving off. Disturbing incidents have been reported all over the town centre and along the seafront.

Weymouth and Portland community safety spokesman Councillor Francis Drake began to talk to View From about the threat but then had to break off as one of the “disturbed” street people abused a group of people just yards away in St Mary Street.

Councillor Drake said: “I have been told of many incidents, seemingly committed by street people who have a serious mental problem. This is something quite recent.

“They are abusive, they act aggressively and they carry out their menacing behaviour right in people’s faces.

“You’ve just seen an example of what it’s like. People are clearly being intimidated and it is a worrying new trend among those sleeping rough in Weymouth. They are obviously seriously disturbed.”

One man who received an aggressive approach as he walked to work along the seafront told the View From: “This man gave me a mouthful of abuse right in my face and was very aggressive.

“He understood English, he understood what I then told him and he won’t be doing that to me again!”

Weymouth has witnessed similar behaviour before from street people including a violinist who used to thrust his bow through the spokes of cyclists’ wheels and a silent hopscotcher whose jerky progress through town was because he wouldn’t step on the cracks between paving stones.

Councillor Drake said of the latest unfortunates: “These people are clearly suffering from mental problems and I think they need help rather than being arrested. I certainly don’t think their behaviour is being caused by drugs.

“I personally think a solution has to start with the police with them getting information about these people which can then be passed on to the relevant authorities.

“This sort of behaviour certainly can’t be allowed to continue because it is leaving many people quite shaken.

“It also doesn’t do anything for Weymouth’s reputation as a safe holiday resort for families.”

A Weymouth Police spokesman said: “Dorset Police works alongside partners to reduce anti-social behaviour in Weymouth.

“We continue to engage with street drinkers and signpost them to support agencies and partners in the town in a bid to reduce anti-social behaviour and change their behaviour in the long term.

“If you see anyone involved in alcohol-related disorder or acting in an anti-social manner please call Dorset Police on 101.

“Alternatively, call the free and anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111. If a crime is in progress or life in danger then dial 999 immediately.”