The Teesside community where fed-up folk say drug-dealing, violence and prostitution is the norm

On a street corner along from a primary school, a Lycra-clad prostitute offers business to passers-by in broad daylight.

It's 4.30pm on a Monday and just a few hundred metres away from the nearby Newport Primary School. A father-of-three living on the road says it's a regular sight in the Newport area of Middlesbrough, along with drug-dealing, knife crime and robbery.

Cleveland Police say work is carried out on a daily basis, with regular patrols in the area, and crime has dropped by 17 per cent in a year. Parvez Akhtar, 54, said: "The other day, my 11-year-old daughter asked me, 'Dad, what is a b******?' She'd heard prostitutes talking to men through the window of our house."

Parvez says he has also been approached by sex workers, right outside his own home. "You see prostitutes on Union Street from 9am on a morning," he said. "I told one to move away and they said, 'It's a free country, go back to your own country.'"

Just around the block, on Parliament Road, Parvez runs a mobile phone and vape shop which has been broken into dozens of times since he opened up the store in 2017. Feeling let down by police, each night he rolls out bails of razor wire across the counter and in front of the door in a bid to protect his livelihood.

The razor wire which Parvez Akhtar sets up around his shop at closing time every night
The razor wire which Parvez Akhtar sets up around his shop at closing time every night -Credit:Naomi Corrigan

"My shop is hit bad," he said. "In three years I've been burgled seven times - nearly every week there is a burglary along here.

"Drug-dealing is normal. Knives, robbery, prostitution... it's all normal around here.

"Police should be patrolling all the time and the courts need to come down harder on the criminals." He said thieves are hit with £100 fines but pointed out his phones are worth hundreds more so it's no deterrent.

Parvez Akhtar
Parvez Akhtar -Credit:Naomi Corrigan

Parvez says he has complained to those in power but has become disillusioned with politics.: "I don't like to vote for anyone anymore because they are all the same and never keep their promises," he said. "Nothing is done."

Located just outside the town centre, the Newport neighbourhood is lined with terraced homes and has a population of about 11,000 people. In the top one per cent of the most deprived wards in England, it has the lowest life expectancy in the town and among the highest rates of crime.

Imran Khan, 41, is the owner of Boro Mobiles on Parliament Road and has also been targeted by thieves and burglars. Around £40,000 worth of mobile phones were stolen around two years ago, he said.

When asked about policing of the area, he said: "You will only see them come when something big happens. We need more police patrolling the area, even if they patrolled once an hour.

"Drugs, prostitution, knife crime - it's normal for this area and people are scared. Many families have stopped coming because of this so how can we do business?"

Fighting, knives and guns

Solomon Lema, 41, who lives on Parliament Road and works in an icecream factory, said he has seen drug-dealing in the area but no violence. However, 21-year-old Vlad Dzurko, said the area isn't safe and stabbings occur.

He spent several years living in the Westerhope area of Newcastle and believes Newport is much worse for crime. "This is the worst place for crime," he said. "I don't think it's safe at all."

Vlad Dzurko, left, and Solomon Lema
Vlad Dzurko, left, and Solomon Lema -Credit:Naomi Corrigan

Ali Mohammed, 49, who in Sicilianos takeaway, says the area attracts criminals from other communities and people sell drugs openly on the street. "Our customers are nice people but some people are nasty." he said.

Fighting is a regular occurrence, he said, and many people are armed, sometimes with knives or even guns.

"Devils are going to make more devils"

Lucifer Kane
Lucifer Kane -Credit:Naomi Corrigan

Dad-of-two and retired metal polisher Lucifer Kane, 56, lives on Carlow Street and said class A drugs such as crack cocaine are the main cause of problems in the area, as well as unemployment and lack of facilities for young people.

"There are not enough parks and youth clubs for them so the kids run around selling drugs," he said. "Devils are going to make more devils.

"There are no jobs around here for people, some don't even have a roof over their heads." His friend, who did not want to be named, said there is not enough support for people leaving prison so they end up becoming addicted again to drugs.

"There's nothing for people to do. So they just get smashed out of their heads," she said.

"Crime has dropped by 17 per cent in past 12 months"

The Local Democracy Reporting spoke to two patrolling officers from the community enforcement team at Middlesbrough Council. People are intimated by gangs hanging around on corners but "it's part of their culture", said one. Regarding prostitution they said safety of the women is their priority and they regularly stop and talk to the workers, even making a note of the clothing they are wearing in case they were to come to harm.

Newport ward councillor Jill Ewan attends a ward surgery every Tuesday between 2pm and 4pm at Streets Ahead for Information on Parliament Road. She urged residents with issues to head along to share their concerns but said: "As regards the crime, residents need to report crime to the police every time it happens.

"The police are the people who deal with it. As a councillor I can't arrest anyone or anything like that."

A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police urged anyone with concerns to get in touch. She said the ward has designated areas for patrols to tackle serious violence and both uniformed officers and plain-clothed officers regularly attend the areas.

“In the Newport ward, work is carried out on a daily basis with dedicated officers and staff working in close partnership with colleagues from the local authority and housing associations to tackle crime and issues affecting our local residents, including sex work and drugs activity," she said. "In the last 12 months, there have been over 30 people charged and imprisoned in relation to drugs activity in the Newport ward, there have been multiple house closures and crime has reduced in this area by 17 per cent (May 2024 compared to May 2023)."

Political pledges to tackle crime

Ahead of the General Election on July 4, the main parties have made their pledges to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour in communities. The Newport area is in the Middlesbrough and Thornaby East constituency which has seven candidates, six of whom represent political parties and one is an Independent.

Conservatives say they will recruit 8,000 new police officers over the next three years and give forces new powers to seize knives and stolen goods. They will also build four new prisons and increase sentences for the most serious crimes.

Labour said its mission in government is to "take back our streets" with aims to halve serious violence and restore public confidence by getting police back on the beat. The plan includes 13,000 extra neighbourhood police and PCSOs.

Lib Dems say they will give a legal guarantee that police will attend all reports of burglaries and improve community policing, with a focus on preventing and solving crimes, particularly rape and violence. Investment would be made to tackle the courts backlog and strengthen supervision of offenders in the community.

The Green Party wants to replace most custodial sentences under two years with programmes such as community service, tackle hate crime, misogyny, Islamophobia and antisemitism and seek to restore trust and confidence in the police. The party would also invest £2.5bn in the court system.

Reform UK wants to increase police officer numbers by 40,000 over five years and boost stop and search "substantially". It also intends to phase out police and community support officers (PCSOs) , scrap all diversity, equality and inclusion roles and regulations and introduce mandatory life imprisonment for drug-dealing and trafficking.

Workers Party of Britain says it will increase officer numbers in high crime areas and increase funding and officers for operations targeting organised crime. It will also shift sentencing guidelines to target organised crime leaders and rehabilitate those working under them.

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