‘The community has come together’ - residents rally in wake of park shooting
PUBLISHED: 18:12 12 September 2019 | UPDATED: 09:05 13 September 2019
Fifteen months ago, an overgrown and under used park became the scene of a shooting which shocked the city.
But the community has since rallied to reclaim West End Gardens, setting up a working committee and a five-year plan to secure its future.
In June 2018, a teenager from London was shot in the buttocks in a botched robbery, and this week two men responsible were jailed for up to 27 years.
The victim was a suspected county lines drug dealer, and in the wake of the shooting residents complained the park had become a "magnet for crime".
Desperate for change, two weeks after the incident they called a public meeting to find a way forward.
And now the community has "come together", holding street parties and forming a committee to make a plan for the future of the park over the next five years.
Liam Calvert, chairman of the Wensum Residents Association, said there is now "more visible policing" in the area and neighbours feel more prepared to report drug dealing.
But he said: "In terms of how much dealing is going on I don't know how much that has changed.
"That is a big problem that is not going to be easily solved."
He said dealers selling harder drugs made their transactions quickly then vanished.
"Visible policing doesn't make much of a difference unless they are there at exactly that moment," he said.
"That said, I think lots more people are phoning in when drug dealing is happening. The time for police to come down is extremely limited so I can see the problem they have.
"You have to respond immediately and I think more people are doing that now."
The residents association has been working with Norwich City Council to improve all the parks in the area.
They have formed a parks committee and are lobbying the council for funds.
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"They of course cannot radically change the park, but we are going to produce a five-year plan," said Mr Culvert. "Each year they will have enough money to make some small changes.
"The more the park looks loved the more people will want to use it, and less drug dealing will be going on."
He added the shooting itself was "a sad indictment of the spiral people's lives can go down".
Will Keatley, of the Fat Cat pub on West End Street, said police have "upped their game" in the area since the incident.
"There are more police officers in the area and the activity has died down a bit," he said.
"When we had the shooting that was the big event when everyone thought it has gone too far.
"You are never going to get rid of [the problems] because you just move it around."
Superintendent Terry Lordan, Norwich police commander, said officers had worked with the council and local residents to address drug dealing in the area since the shooting.
"We conduct a number of street surgeries in and around that area and the local beat managers work tirelessly to make a difference," he said.
"A police solution to any problem is never going to fix it - it has to be a completely multi-agency approach.
"The shooting shocked the local community and I fully understand why. Incidents of that nature are extremely rare in Norfolk, and I think we have one of the safest cities in the country. We are not London or Merseyside.
"A number of detectives worked tirelessly in reviewing the evidence to get this result, and you can see the severity of the incident in terms of the sentence handed out.
"It is very fortunate gun crime in Norfolk is very minimal. My staff live in the city and are invested in making where they live a better place."
Kallum Eastall, 19, and Jake Brittain, 27, both admitted attempted robbery, having a firearm with intent to commit robbery, and possession of two 15-inch knives on June 27, 2018.
Eastall was given an extended 13-year sentence with nine years custody and four years extended licence.
Brittain was given a 14-year extended sentence with 10 years custody and four years extended licence.
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