Wigan vicar: ‘No-one wants to be known as a grass but there is danger’

The Reverend Denise Hayes
The Reverend Denise Hayes
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A vicar has made a passionate plea for people to “wake up and act” to halt the number of young people being dragged into drugs.

The Reverend Denise Hayes, of St Francis and St Barnabas churches, is concerned about dealers preying on children in Marsh Green.

Related: Wigan reverend speaks out about youth group drug issues

She fears for the future of the youths involved and wants the community to step in.

Rev Hayes spoke out after the Observer reported she had to shut a youth group at St Barnabas’s Church because teenagers were simply going there to drink and take drugs.

It is believed the same youths moved to causing havoc at the nearby Intrahealth GP Surgery. Staff there said teenagers with their faces covered try to get into the health centre every day, kicking, punching and spitting on the door, threatening staff and scaring patients.

She said: “Marsh Green is a great community and it doesn’t deserve the reputation it is often associated with. No one can deny there is a high incidence of drug and alcohol abuse but the community is more than the problems these addictions cause.

“The people here hold a real community spirit and they will help and protect one another especially the children. Normally if there were a hint here that someone was a danger to the children of this area everyone would get together to do something about it.

“The sad thing is there is a danger to the children and youth of our community that is going unreported and unrecognised and leaving our police with their hands tied.

“This danger is the drug dealers and those purchasing alcohol for our youth,

“The drug dealers befriend vulnerable youths on our estate, especially those who have been expelled from school. The dealers take an interest in their lives, invite them into their homes to watch telly, smoke a bit of ‘weed’, take them fishing etc, then they offer them something stronger and before they know where they are they find themselves dealing to their friends or dropping bags off at various places, using and dealing and getting into all sorts of trouble when they are on a high.

“The future for these youths is drug/alcohol addiction, prison and/or death at a young age unless we do something.

“This community knows who the dealers are but won’t talk, as I said no-one wants to be known as a ‘grass’.

“This leaves young lives at risk and the authorities can’t do anything without evidence.

“We should be ashamed that we’ve allowed this to happen and we need to wake up and act. The lives of these youths are precious as are the lives of every addict/alcoholic. Like this community they are worth more than what alcohol and drugs do to them.

“Anyone can ring Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 to anonymously report what is going on and get the dealers off our streets and out of young lives. Together we can change things and make this place a better and safer place for all.”

Sgt Melanie Roberts previously told the Observer she had been made aware of a number of incidents of anti-social behaviour in the Marsh Green area.

She said she was working closely with partners, including Wigan Council and Targeted Services, to tackle the problems and was looking at ways to improve youth provision in the area.