THE ‘drug capital’ of Andover is posing a threat to young people, civic and charity voices have warned.

Concerns have been aired about the Alamein ward area over the potential exposure of youngsters to drug dealers, particularly in spots such as Roman Way skate park.

Nearly 30 per cent of Alamein residents are aged 19 or under, above the borough average, with Andover town councillor Barbara Carpenter fearful of the ease of which these youngsters could come into contact with hard drugs.

Cllr Carpenter said: “I campaigned for the skate park to give children something to do up here. The [borough] council agreed to put it in, and then all of a sudden - wham - we have got drug dealers walking over from the lay-by going up to the children.

“Residents round here are calling this area round here the drug capital of Andover.

“This was a lovely place but since all these drug issues people are getting really worried, it is not fair on them.

“I don’t like to see children affected by it, I really don’t.”

The neighbourhood watch coordinator said she believes parents are more reluctant to take their children down to the playing fields due to the drug-related activity and not knowing “what is happening next”.

Police confirmed last week Alamein sees a high amount of drug-related activity in the town, but the problem is not restricted to the area.

Since 2016, an initiative called the Bus of Hope Andover runs a Friday night drop-in session by Roman Way skate park, for youngsters to spend time in a safe, positive environment.

One of its co-leaders Glenn Prince, who grew up on Roman Way, said while drugs are rife it is not a new phenomenon.

Mr Prince said: “It is definitely a concern - that is why we go down there each week to promote something a bit different.

“Young people we are involved with speak about drugs in the area and have been approached by individuals to sell.

“The drugs are within the community not outside, and a majority of the time we see from a distance transactions taking place.”

The co-leader, who runs the drop-in with colleagues Abby Prince and Veronica Brewer, said they do not tend to report the drug-related activity they see due to it being difficult to identify individuals, otherwise they would “probably be reporting it every week.”

He added: “[Parts of] Alamein are among the highest deprived areas in the country.

“When you look at that in a stats perspective, £5 to drop something round someone’s house is quite an incentive, then they [young people] see how easy it is to make money. It becomes a bit of a game.”

The bus saw 250 different young people over the course of last year.

Cllr Carpenter told an Andover Town Council meeting on Thursday last week, that a nine-year-old boy had been approached at the skate park by a drug dealer with heroin. She later explained she reported it to the police.

While Mr Prince believes more police patrols in the area would help, Cllr Carpenter is calling for housing associations to do more on drugs by inspecting their homes more frequently.

Nearly half of Alamein residents live in socially-rented accommodation.

The Aster resident said: “Housing associations should inspect their properties on a regular basis, 18 months or so, because I’m sure then they can find out what’s going on in their properties.

“Aster told me every five years they inspect them. I’ve lived here 16 years and mine’s never once been inspected.”

A spokesperson for Aster Group said it has anti-social behaviour teams working with residents and partners such as the police.

They added: “We have successfully worked with the police based on the level of risk, to tackle concerns over drug use in this area previously and we are not aware of the need at present for any further involvement.

“If residents are concerned, we would encourage them to report it to the police in the first instance and then to us. We take ASB extremely seriously and will follow-up on every single report we receive.

“Whilst we carry out regular tenancy inspections of our homes as required, we do not have the authority to search a property, this is a matter for the police should there be reasonable grounds for a warrant.”

Drug-related harm remains the police’s top priority in Andover, and Hampshire Constabulary is encouraging residents to report drug-related crimes and information to 101 or via its website.

Inspector Chris Taylor said: “Our district priority remains drug related harm in Andover, and especially the exploitation of vulnerable adults and children by drug dealers.

“On a daily basis, Andover Neighbourhood officers are targeting transient drug dealers (County Lines) and vulnerable addresses.

“We look at every single report, which allows us to target the most serious issues. With reduced resources we have to work smarter, and look at the bigger picture targeting the people who cause the most harm.

“We have a good record of this in Test Valley, and with help of the community and partners we will continue to do this.”