RESIDENTS say they are living in fear of a group of homeless people living under a bridge in Oxford.
Richard Jarman, 43, of Botley Road, lives next to Frideswide Bridge and claims that homeless people have been living there on and off for the past three years.
When he left his house last week he says he was chased by the two dogs owned by the group and threatened by a woman sleeping rough there.
Mr Jarman, who lives with his partner Karl Sternberg, said: “I feel frightened to live in my own home.
“I am scared, especially when it gets dark. They’ve got nothing to lose, I’ve got everything to lose.”
He added: “There are two aggressive dogs – both very capable of attacking pedestrians walking down Botley Road and there is a school nearby.”
Mr Jarman said the problem of homeless people living under the bridge – between St Frideswide Church and West Oxford Community Centre – had been on-going and added that Mr Sternberg went to hospital in February last year after his finger was injured by a used syringe left near their home.
Susanna Pressel, city and county councillor for the area, said: “The police, the homelessness team and the community response team have been visiting the people under the bridge and trying very, very hard to persuade them to move into a hostel.
“There are retirement flats on the other side of the road and the manager has complained to me about these rough sleepers. “Local residents say they have seen them injecting heroin and have been subjected to frighteningly aggressive behaviour from them and their dog. It is a busy part of Oxford with a well-used community centre and community cafe within a few steps and it’s close to the city centre.
“Everybody wants the people living under the bridge to have a roof over their heads.
“These people have been offered hostel places many times but they are apparently refusing to engage with the agencies and refusing to accept help. It is a great worry for everybody.”
In a statement, Oxford City Council said it was working with the police and added: “The situation has escalated and as such we are gathering evidence in order to quickly resolve the situation using proportionate actions.”
Sgt Joanne Hutchings, of Oxford Central Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “It has taken a considerable amount of time to establish proprietorship of that part of the bridge due to its ancient provenance and it has only in the past few days been confirmed. “The owners will be able to apply to court for an eviction notice which police can enforce.
“We are working in partnership with several agencies including bridge owners, Oxfordshire County Council and the city council in a multi-agency approach to address the issues and concerns of the residents regarding the people living under the bridge and antisocial behaviour.
“It is very much our aim to resolve this issue in a manner which keeps peace and order in that area and addresses the concerns of local residents.”
Police said the bridge was owned by the county council but last night no-one from the authority was available to comment.
Anyone with concerns can call 999 in an emergency, 101 in a non-emergency or the city council’s antisocial behaviour team directly on 01865 252969.