‘A CHEAP way to get high’: nitrous oxide canisters found ‘all over the borough’, a community warden reveals.

At a virtual communities’ overview and scrutiny meeting on July 23 (Thursday), both Royal Borough councillors and the community warden lead, Andy Aldridge, said they have seen an increase of empty canisters found in their wards and parks.

Councillor Catherine Del Campo (Liberal Democrats: Furze Platt) said she’s seen an ‘explosion’ in drug taking this year after taking bags full of empty canisters from a litter pick in Oaken Grove Park.

She added this could be because young people are feeling ‘locked up and frustrated’ due to the pandemic.

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Councillor Gurpreet Bhangra (Conservative: Boyn Hill) said: “We have the same problem in our ward and in our parks.

“That was a big problem, I think something we need to tackle and really gear up our community warden.

“It’s a big problem all over the county and hopefully there’s some legislation coming into the parliament addressing this problem because it’s quite a dangerous substance that is being abused by children who don’t know the effects of nitrous oxide.”

Mr Aldridge responded: “It is the in thing right now at the moment and a cheap way of getting high – but we know the effects are quite dangerous for young people.

“We are working in conjunction with RBWM’s (Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead) young person substance misuse workers and we’ll continue to do that because we’re finding that all over the borough at the moment.”

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Other updates on the community wardens – which have been reduced to 19 wardens from 25 – includes the team now using body worn video to be used as evidence for incidents as well as de-escalating any confrontations.

When the pubs reopened on July 4, they worked with the police and the council’s licensing team on operation independence to make sure establishments were adhering to the guidance.

Andy Aldridge told panel members community wardens have been given increased powers to ask for people’s names and addresses, and if someone gives them a ‘Mickey Mouse’ name, that becomes a secondary offence.

He added they have been given new cycling powers – but is currently only applied to cyclists on pavements.

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Members paid tribute to community warden and colleague Dave Lee who sadly passed away in April from coronavirus.

Mr Aldridge said: “During our team meetings, we always say to them they are the face of the council.

“They’re out there with a positive attitude and I couldn’t be more proud of them what we’ve gone through in the past three or four months.

“We had a death of a colleague which really hit the team quite hard, yet they turned up for work and we were still sending them out to the street.

“We were probably one of the few services keeping a ground force going out to the street and engaging with rough sleepers and whoever we came across.

“I was very, very – and still am – proud of what they’re doing.”