VIOLENT crime in a Southsea precinct has increased five-fold since it was pedestrianised, police figures reveal.
Palmerston Road was semi-pedestrianised earlier this year as part of a Portsmouth City Council £500,000 regeneration project to create a more welcoming environment for shoppers and boost the local economy.
But police have recorded 28 reports of violent crimes against people in the street between May and June this year – compared with six over the same period in 2011.
Some residents and traders say pedestrianisation has led to drunken people gathering in large groups in the precinct, causing more violent disorder.
Officers have yet to come to a conclusion over the cause of the increase but have been forced to increase patrols in the area to prevent problems.
The news comes as the council said it will install a new CCTV camera at the corner of Avenue De Caen to increase coverage of Palmerston Road.
Southsea Inspector Greg Moore said: ‘Police always strive to maintain an active presence in every neighbourhood. Local officers are responding to issues in and around Palmerston Road as people arrive, gather and leave at different times.
‘I recognise that residents share similar concerns about perceptions of crime, which we are working hard to resolve and reduce as soon as possible.’
Leader of the city council Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘At a recent Pub Watch meeting, the police said that they need to look at it further, but one of the reasons is we have been so successful in Guildhall Walk and that is driving troublemakers into Southsea. So if this rise in violent crime is caused by that kind of displacement then we will need to look at whether we need a new system for checking IDs.
‘We could bring the regime which has worked so well in Guildhall Walk down to Southsea.’
The pedestrianisation of Palmerston Road has been a controversial topic since its opening in April.
There was a split between traders and residents over their support for the plans.
Some believe the removal of traffic has affected business, increased drunken behaviour and contributed to congestion problems in neighbouring roads.
Others say it has made the precinct a thriving area.
Tony Brown, 64, of Palmerston Road, said: ‘The council has, in practice, transferred Guildhall Walk, with all its attendant trouble, to Palmerston Road and is blatantly ignoring the problem that it has created, caused by unacceptably large crowds of drunken people spread out across the street.’