Police warning over gas cylinder ‘high’

POLICE are stepping up patrols in Saffron Walden amid problems with anti-social behaviour and concerns that children are using “legal highs”.

Officers said they have found a number of small carbon dioxide cylinders around Tukes Way, Peal Road and the playing field next to Lord Butler Fitness & Leisure Centre.

Acting Inspector for Saffron Walden, Colin Cox, said the silver cylinders, which are about 10cm long, are used in household appliances such as soda streams, making them readily available in various stores and online. Inhaling the gas leads to effects similar to that of hyper-ventilating, causing dizziness and feeling faint.

A box containing the cylinders – some of which had been used – was found in the area last week after officers received complaints from about nuisance youths.

Essex Police is keen to warn parents of the dangers of anyone using carbon dioxide to get high.

“There has been very little research into the short, medium and long-term risks of ‘legal highs’ but it is becoming increasingly clear they are far from harmless and can have similar health risks to drugs like cocaine, ecstasy and speed,” said acting Insp Cox.

“It’s also likely that some substances sold as ‘legal highs’ may contain one or more illegal substances. No one knows the effects, so don’t risk your life by finding out.”

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The warning comes on the back of a spike in calls about anti-social behaviour in that part of town this month.

Officers attended three incidents involving groups of youngsters which have resulted in criminal damage being caused to a resident’s garden fence. Complaints have also been made about excessive noise and disturbance.

Officers will target the area, challenging nuisance behaviour. Any child spoken to by officers will have their name and address taken and a letter will be sent to their parents.

“Although not all children in this area will be involved in anti-social behaviour, it is important to inform parents of the areas where their children congregate and expose themselves to the risk of being caught up in these incidents,” said acting Insp Cox.

“Anti-social behaviour impacts on all the areas of the community, from criminal damage, littering to swearing and offensive language.”

He stressed that the incidents are unconnected to the “excellent work carried out” by the organisers and users of the skate park.

Cllr Alastair Walters, Uttlesford cabinet member whose responsibilities include community safety, said the incidents are “not serious but are causing a problem”.

“Generally, throughout the district and in Saffron Walden, crime levels are extremely low. But there are the odd incidents that flare up which need to be dealt with as soon as possible,” he said.

“I am convinced police are taking the right approach. In the last few months in particular there has been a noticeable improvement in dealing with anti-social behaviour.”

Anyone wishing to discuss the current issues can contact the Saffron Walden Neighbourhood Policing Team on 07779 037 084 or 101.