Meet the town rangers working to keep Shrewsbury's streets safe
Shropshire Star reporter Mark Andrews steps out with Shrewsbury's ‘town rangers’ - brought in by the town council to crack down on anti-social behaviour.
Under the watchful eye of Percy Thrower’s bust, Mark Bowen takes a breather from his gardening work to talk about the bad old days in Shrewsbury’s Quarry Park.
“The park was almost going out of control,” says Mark, who is busy maintaining the dazzling displays in the Dingle flower garden.
“The youths were running about, there was drug abuse, and the dog walkers were afraid to come into the park.
“Then the security guys came in and it makes such a difference. You don’t get the troublemakers coming in now it’s being patrolled.”
The ‘security guys’ Mark is talking about are John Price and Mike Achiew, two of a team of 10 ‘town rangers’ brought in by Shrewsbury Town Council to crack down on problems of anti-social and unruly behaviour in the town.
The initiative, launched in September last year, costs £240,000 a year to maintain, and was initially paid for through the Government’s Safer Streets fund, with match-funding coming from the town council itself, and also from the Shrewsbury Business Improvement District.
With the funding due to run out in April next year, the council is now in talks with Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion about seeking an extension to the funding.
John, 58, and ex-professional boxer Mike, 46, enjoy variety in their work, patrolling the park in the day, and acting as taxi marshals and providing general security at times when the town is packed with revellers in the evening.
Also on the team is John’s wife Natalie, 48, and Luke Wilkin, 33, who patrol the town centre at busy times during the day, offering help to visitors, and defusing any trouble before it begins.
“We help members of the public, giving directions and any help that is needed, and we also carry out welfare checks on rough sleepers, and support them where we can,” says Luke.
“We will support shops and businesses by trying to minimise anti-social behaviour in the town centre, by building up a rapport with known individuals that use the town centre often.”
Shrewsbury’s problem with rough sleepers is well documented. Official crime figures show more than 700 incidents of anti-social behaviour related to rough sleepers reported during May, June and July this year.