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Community / Longer public toilet opening hours one proposed solution to antisocial behaviour in town centre

Councillor Allison Duncan. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

THE COUNCIL has taken to jetwashing some of Lerwick’s lanes on Saturday and Sunday mornings due to the amount of urine being left there in the early hours, a meeting has heard.

Meanwhile members of Shetland’s community’s safety and resilience board said a multi-agency approach to reports of antisocial behaviour in the centre of Lerwick at the weekend is key to tackling the issue.

Chairman councillor Allison Duncan said at Tuesday’s meeting that there were reports of urination, faeces and other antisocial behaviour in Harrison Square and the lanes at the weekend such as noise and damage to property.

The Shetland South member, who has attended the town centre on three occasions to witness what happens for himself, added that some local residents have on occasion stayed overnight elsewhere so they can get sleep.

The meeting heard that youths tend to gather in Harrison Square in Lerwick during the day before adults congregate there at night – with more than 100 people sometimes heading there after the pubs shut.

Seating was installed in the square last year, which includes a fish and chip shop with a late licence, and it has turned into something of a meeting space.

Duncan said there were also reports of some older folk being frightened to visit local businesses when there are lots of young people congregating at Harrison Square.

However, he stressed at Tuesday’s meeting that he was not “youth bashing” and that most young people behave well.

“The majority of youths are enjoying themselves with good behaviour at weekends, however there’s a small minority who are not behaving responsibility,” Duncan said.

Councillor Ryan Thomson also said he was out in Lerwick at the weekend and any instances of “borderline anti-social behaviour” were from adults and not young people.

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Duncan suggested possible solutions could be opening the public toilets longer, working in partnership with youths about activities and encouraging a greater number of taxis.

Shetland Islands Council’s antisocial behaviour coordinator Billy Mycock said he completely agreed there are a “number of tensions” in the Harrison Square area.

“For me the solutions need some sort of multi-agency input,” he said.

The council’s youth and employability team leader Martin Summers also highlighted the number of places currently on offer for young people through the week, such as the Sandveien Neighbourhood Centre and Islesburgh.

There have also been initiatives tried in the past like youth workers on the street and “midnight football”, Summers said, and these could potentially be resurrected in the future.

He added: “We want to work with young people to create solutions, rather than create divisions between them and the rest of the community.”

Summers also called on members of the community to think about becoming a youth worker, as there are vacancies in the service.

Divisional commander for the Highland and Islands Conrad Trickett also said the police was keen to keep a propionate response. “We do not want to alienate any of these communities we are talking about,” he said.

He also questioned if the taxi rank at Victoria Pier was the right location due to its proximity to Harrison Square, which often has long waits after the pubs close.

Shetland area commander chief inspector Stuart Clemenson also encouraged anyone with concerns to phone the police on 101.

But he said crime figures show there are few reports actually made to the police of antisocial behaviour and said the buildings surrounding Harrison Square can amplify the noise.

Clemenson also showed support of the idea of looking at the opening hours of the Esplanade public toilets – which are available until 9pm – as well as having more taxis on the go in the early hours.

The effect the Covid pandemic has had on young people was also raised during discussions.

Meanwhile Shetland West councillor Liz Peterson noted how people used to gather at the Market Cross, and suggested people tend to want to congregate at places that are in fashion at that time.

The meeting heard that the age of people meeting in Harrison Square increases as the day goes on, through to adults when the pubs close.

Chairman Duncan said he was “very encouraged” by the discussions and requested a further report back to the board in the future.

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