‘Escape route’ crime alley closed off by gates

Shut off: PCSO Stephen Connolly and PC Tony Cobban next to the new alleygates on Cannon Street

Shut off: PCSO Stephen Connolly and PC Tony Cobban next to the new alleygates on Cannon Street

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An alleyway used by drug dealers, drinkers and criminals targeting city centre businesses as a ‘getaway route’ has been blocked off.

Firms in the Cannon Street area of Preston have complained to police for years about drunken nuisance behaviour, shoplifting, drug activity and even several robberies – with offenders using the alleyway, which runs behind the street, as an “escape route” out of the city centre.

Now new alleygates have been put up at either end of the passageway behind Cannon Street to shut it off for good.

PC Bryanna Collier, community beat manager for the city centre, worked with both the council and Preston businesses, including Boots, Ocean Menswear, European Fine Arts and Antiques and Costa Coffee to get funding for the new gates.

PC Collier said: “There have been a number of issues with the alleyway going back over several years.

“Drug users would congregate there, shoplifters would use it as an escape route after stealing from local stores and robberies had also taken place down there.

“It was also used by street drinkers as an unofficial toilet and nearby businesses were targeted in burglaries as the alley made it easy for them to gain access to the rear of the properties.

“Nearby businesses were keen to find a solution to the problems so we worked with them and Preston Council to get funding in place and put up a set of gates.

“This will prevent people from using the alleyway for criminal purposes and will make the surrounding area a safer place.”

Preston Council has an existing alleygates scheme in the city and so it was suggested that adding Cannon Street to the project would be the easiest way of blocking the alleyway off.

The gates cost £3,813 in total, £1,813 of which was contributed by the council and the rest came from businesses.

Coun Robert Boswell, cabinet member for community and environment, said: “The council has worked in partnership with the police and local businesses in a pro-active approach to tackle issues of crime, anti-social behaviour and flytipping in the Cannon Street area. The alleygates should provide a solution to the concerns raised, ensuring a safer and cleaner environment.”