PARTS of Colchester town centre have become a no go area because of aggressive beggars and blatant drug dealers, according to worried residents.

Fears about the safety of the area were raised at a meeting hosted by police, fire and crime commissioner Roger Hirst where residents set out their concerns.

Vanessa Shults said she had noticed several worrying incidents since she began visiting the town centre more often with her son Jordan, who has Asperger’s.

She said: “There are drug deals happening near Firstsite at 7pm, around the corner from the gallery near the disabled parking.

“It scared us both to death and it should not be acceptable.

“It is happening right next door to a multi-million pound art gallery.

“My husband now has to pick us up because we don’t want to hang around – that should not have to happen. On the High Street, rough sleepers are aggressive and it frightens my son to walk down there – I want him to be able to walk around in town on his own.

“We should be able to walk around town with no fear.”

Mrs Shults said she was also worried about the safety of the Essex University campus after a recent stabbing.

Other people backed the police but said they feared Colchester was being ruined by louts

drinking, swearing and even urinating in public and claiming ownership of places like St Botolph’s Priory.

Colchester’s district commander, Chief Insp Shaun Kane said he hoped the new Town Centre Action Plan which includes a dedicated team of officers being solely focused on the area would allay fears. He said: “Nobody should feel like that.

“It upsets me this is happening and it makes me angry.

“We are having a real focus on the town centre which includes aggressive begging, drug dealing and anti-social behaviour.

“Sadly, drugs underpin crimes across the country.

“In Colchester we are deploying overt and covert operations to try to stop this happening.”

Mr Kane added he did not just want troublemakers moving onto other areas of town.

He said: “We are looking for long-term problem solving, not just displacement.

“It is not about moving it to other wards, but stopping it completely.

“I want to assure people we have a crime plan for each and every single crime ward in Colchester.”