'Enough is enough!' - Doncaster businessman's call to to authorities to sort 'zombie' spice addicts in town centre

Dominic Gibbs has called on the authorities to tackle the town's Spice problem and has urged people to keep supporting local businesses after he said many are turning their backs on Doncaster and are heading to Meadowhall instead. Picture: George Torr
Dominic Gibbs has called on the authorities to tackle the town's Spice problem and has urged people to keep supporting local businesses after he said many are turning their backs on Doncaster and are heading to Meadowhall instead. Picture: George Torr

A Doncaster business owner has launched a grassroots campaign to tackle to scourge of 'zombies' hooked on spice around the town centre.

Dominic Gibbs, owner of the Diamond Live Lounge on Wood Street said said the problem is so bad that people are turning their backs on Doncaster as a shopping destination and are head to Sheffield and Meadowhall instead.

Police arrest a suspected Spice dealer in Doncaster

Police arrest a suspected Spice dealer in Doncaster

His 'Clean Up Doncaster Town Centre' page has exploded with thousand of members supporting his call in a just a week and wants to alert the council and police to start taking real action.

Mr Gibbs has the backing of over 6,300 people and BBC Apprentice star Fran Bishop who owns a clothing store on Kingsgate in Waterdale.

Mayor Ros Jones and South Yorkshire Police have said both authorities are working together to tackle the problem along with charities and the health service.

People have been posted various pictures and videos of substance users who appeared to be under the influence of Spice.

A man appears in a semi-conscious state in Doncaster

A man appears in a semi-conscious state in Doncaster

Some images show users openly consuming drugs and laying on the floor semi-conscious state, while others claims to have spotted open drug deals in front of shoppers around the town centre.

One video includes a drug users acting erratically by flailing his arms and body around with another man trying to get him down from railing at Doncaster market.

Another picture shows a man with his trousers around his ankles and what appears to show him injecting into his leg in broad daylight in the middle of the town centre.

Mr Gibbs, 47, has owned his Waterdale bar for four years and admitted the Spice problem didn't effect him directly.

Doncaster town centre

Doncaster town centre

But he said he 'loves the town' and said it 'deserved better'. He recently met with council chief executive Jo Miller after the Facebook group went viral.

He added he doesn't want to drag the town down but said he 'needed hard evidence' to document the scale of the problem.

"I walk through town and I've seen the decline and more and more people are addicted to spice and the effects of that," he said.

"I've done the whole criticise thing and it's the easiest thing ever to point the finger but there comes a point when you need to do something about it.

Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones

Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones

"It's about making people aware, tell the authorities we are not accepting this - this is our town and we expect better than this.

"I started the group not knowing how mad it would go - there's over 5,000 people on there now."

And real awareness is what Mr Gibbs wants. He doesn't agree with an idea of protests after someone on the Facebook suggested it.

He cites a town centre business forum and said he was a 'lone voice' when he said the Spice problem had gotten worse.

"I was told it hadn't gotten worse - there's a complex lives team and they're doing all this and the town centre retail guy was saying no it's not worse," he said.

"It came to me that I needed evidence to show what I was talking about - this is the first time I've asked anything negative from people to say about this town - I hate the fact as a we talk ourselves down and I really believe we don't punch our weight."

Doncaster Chief Superintendent Shaun Morley

Doncaster Chief Superintendent Shaun Morley

The problem of Spice is not a Doncaster issue. Councils, health services and police forces are all trying to develop a concrete strategy up and down the country.

A knock on effect for Doncaster however is the impact on the economy. Mr Gibbs said he's heard many a story of shoppers staying away from the town centre and heading elsewhere.

"I was surprised at actually how bad it is with the Spice but the main I've people picked up on is how many people are saying they no longer shop in the town centre - they're going to Sheffield and Meadowhall so they're taking the Doncaster pound and it's gone," he said.

"This problem is having a massive effect on our economy and all that will happen is that will keep going down and people will not spend their money in Doncaster and it could become a ghost town. We can sit back and let it happen or we can do something about it.

"Zombies is what people say but that is the closest description you can give them. This Spice drug is horrendous.

"Drug addicts used to keep themselves out of the way but these people just lose control of their body and it's in people's faces - it's just there."

The 47-year-old admitted he 'doesn't have all the answers' but said he wanted to bring about positive change to make Doncaster 'punch it's weight'.

There's so many great things going on and so much good has come out of Doncaster. This wasn't just a place to drag the town through the mud, this was to try and come together and bring about positive change

"I know it's a national problem, but why shouldn't we stand up first and become a pioneer to really tackle this."

WHAT THE COUNCIL SAY

Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones said the problem wouldn't be solved overnight and the council were 'well aware of the problem'

"It's all about collaborative working, the police, the local authority alongside charities," she said.

"I won't be an easy solution just to sort out over night. What I would say is there are a lot of generous residents in Doncaster and people would be better to give their money to the charities who help these people on the streets because not everyone is homeless.

"We're hoping for a bigger police presence in October with the Tutor Unit coming to Doncaster so they'll be more officers deployed as part of their training.

"Everyone is working extremely hard but we recognise it's an issue and we will continue to address this. I appreciate how generous many of our residents are and just ask that we look to give to the charities for them to support them but I do appreciate it's not for me to tell people how they spend their money.

"As I go round you see people like this and when I've gone further afield. I walked out of York station, just the same.

"We'd love it to go away overnight and for people to get the assistance they need but people need to engage with us."

WHAT THE POLICE SAY

Doncaster Central Neighbourhood Police team have said they have 10 officers and four PCSOs dedicated to tackling the issue of Spice, drug dealing and begging.

They added they've conducted a total '5,290 hours' on the beat addressing the issue in the last six weeks.

Doncaster Central Chf Supt Shaun Morley said his team had arrested 19 suspects and 28 people searched in relation to the use and dealing of Spice.

He added two 'well-known individuals' are already serving prison sentences as a result of offences committed within the town centre associated with Spice use and town centre business burglaries.

Chf Supt Shuan Morley said: "Officers continue to robustly enforce the current Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) in place for the town centre.

"As part of that ongoing enforcement, in the past six weeks, officers from the Central Neighbourhood team have processed 42 breaches of the PSPO prohibitions currently in place and as part of those prohibitions have dispersed 30 people from the town centre, 16 of which were then prosecuted for breach of PSPO dispersal notices issued.

"Our officers have also engaged with 113 known rough sleepers during this six-week period.

"Officers from the Central NHP continue to dedicate their time to tackling issues within the town centre, together with support from other police units and partner agencies including DMBC and St Leger Homes."