CITY leaders have agreed to do more work together to try and tackle antisocial behaviour which is making residents’ lives a misery.

Last night, organisations in Durham City agreed more work was needed to tackle antisocial behaviour in Durham city centre following a conference, which was called because of complaints from residents about “aggressive” begging, daytime drinking and late night noise.

The event, organised by the City of Durham Parish Council, heard city centre drinking was “killing trade” while other residents complained ongoing problems with noisy students was having an impact on their health.

Superintendant Richie Allen, from Durham Police, said: “It’s on our radar. We get the community concern loud and clear. Work is ongoing but there’s no silver bullet.”

Among those on the panel was Nick Rippin, representing MP Roberta Blackman-Woods, Dave Orford, Durham Police’s deputy chief constable, Joanne Waller, who is head of community protection at Durham County Council, Kate McIntosh, the president of Durham Students’ Union and Darryn Hook, who runs Sanctuary 21, which is part of the Salvation Army.

Durham University was invited to be on the panel but declined, though pro-vice chancellor Jeremy Cook and community liaison officer Hannah Shepherd both attended and answered questions.

The meeting heard about efforts to tackle problems, which have included Durham County Council employing two dedicated neighbourhood wardens for the city centre, a growing programme of support for homeless people at Sanctuary 21 and campaigns urging students to be respectful of their neighbours.

Ms Waller, who urged residents to take part in the county council’s consultation on whether there should be a new licensing policy for Durham city, said: “Antisocial behaviour is a challenging issue. We have to work collectively. We are working really well with the police and fire service and BID about issues with local businesses. We’re working with local landlords.

“Hopefully in the last few weeks people have seen a marked visible presence in the city centre with our dedicated neighbourhood wardens who are focussing their efforts on the Market Place and North Road.”

But members of the public vented their frustration at the lack of enforcement in the city after 10pm, as well as a lack of police on the street.

Shopkeeper Peter Jackson, who runs The Mugwump, in Saddler Street, said: “I’m here because of the loss of trade that has been happening on Saturdays. It’s killing the town.

“The behaviour on a Saturday is a consequence of inadequate policing in Durham city and it’s costing businesses far more than all the shoplifting put together. The problem goes back to alcohol.”

One man, who has been trying to log excessive noise in the Claypath area, said there had been about 40 instances of antisocial disturbances in 24 days this term, with multiple instances on some nights, with problems occurring as late as 3.30am.

Another fed-up resident from Hallgarth Street said: “A lot of these problems we are not new. They have been going on for years and years and years. We hear these wonderful things that are being done but it doesn’t work. It’s not just parties, its day to day people walking home making a hell of a lot of noise at 3am.

“There isn’t respect for other people and it seem to be getting worse. There’s no empathy.”

Police agreed to have more officers to knock on the doors of problem houses.

The meeting heard police had stopped handing out community protection orders to noisy students because it was not “an appropriate” use of the law and was described as like “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

But residents asked if police could respond to complaints, even if orders were not given out.

Dave Orford, Durham Police’s deputy chief constable, said: “If you’re saying a uniformed officer knocking on the door has a dramatic effect we will try that again.”

“A good old-fashioned bobby knocking a door doesn’t need any law. I’ll give the extra resource to see if it works.”

He added the police were currently recruiting 200 officers and said he hoped there would be more officers working in neighbourhood teams, though stressed it would be several years before that happened.

He said: “We can’t turn back the clock on some of what we have got but there’s an argument on what we can do in the future.”

Those attending agreed to be part of a conversation with the parish council to find solutions.

Other suggestions for action included a public space protection order for antisocial behaviour and begging, which have been introduced in other town and city centres, and getting student volunteers to keep their peers quiet at night.

Councillor Elizabeth Scott, who is chairwoman of the parish council, said she was pleased people had attended the event to address the issues of "great concern" to residents and visitors. 

She added: "I want to stress how wonderful Durham is. 

"It truly is a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family. There have always been tensions but something has changed.

"The sorts of things that are reported to us range from certain indiviudals in North Road or the Market Place who display drunken behaviour at all times of the day to late night noise, often caused by groups of students returning to their accommodation after closing time. 

"We feel more needs to be done to tackle the issues we face."

She added the parish council would take a lead on investigating some of the ideas raised as possible solutions and asked other organisations to be part of the conversation.