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Sega plans on hold after 'unfair' claim

THE operators of an amusement arcade in Bournemouth's Westover Road, which police believe is a crime 'hot spot', say that they are being unfairly targeted.

Sega World, which has been running the entertainment centre since 1993, is seeking to take over the former MVC premises on the same road.

Their planning application was put on hold, however, after Inspector Neil MacBean forwarded a report to the town planners, objecting to the scheme on the grounds of 'potential crime and disorder'.

His correspondence detailed 34 recorded crimes at the venue in the last two years and 56 call outs to the premises. These include four reported incidents of ABH, four thefts from gaming machines and 16 thefts of wallets or mobile phones.

He suggested that Sega World has become a meeting point for youngsters and indicates that after leaving the venue, they were going into the gardens and committing acts of anti-social behaviour.

Sega World has claimed that the statistics are inaccurate and misleading and believe they have been unfairly targeted by police.

The chief executive of parent company Leisure Exchange Plc, Stephen Eldred, said: "Out of 409 reported incidents in the Westover Road area in the last six months of 2004, only five directly relate to Sega World."

He added: "We keep a record of all incidents and in the last six months we have had only three real incidents.

"If a drunk causes a disturbance while he is walking past a cinema, it is recorded as happening 'outside' the cinema but it doesn't mean that the cinema is in any way responsible.

"There was an incident in which a girl came to us for help because she was worried she was being stalked, so we rang the police - that doesn't mean we were in any way responsible for the crime."

Sega World claims that police statistics show the peak crime period - between 11pm and 3am - occurs when the venue is shut. They also say that police statistics for other locations on the same road, like the YMCA - 30 reported crimes - were much higher.

Blair Crawford, executive director of Bournemouth YMCA, believes Westover Road may be an attractive target for criminals because of the type of retail outlets that can be found there.

"There is a jewellers and many desirable goods, which makes it a very good target."

He added: "We do have some people with a criminal history staying here but we are working with people who want to address these issues.

"If this hostel wasn't here there would be more problems on the streets. It is recognised that the work we do makes a positive contribution to the community."

The police insist they will oppose Sega World's application when it is reviewed later this month. Inspector MacBean says the police are working alongside Bournemouth Borough Council in the light of plans to develop Westover Road.

He told the Daily Echo: "By allowing a premises with an arcade, we could create a policing headache. We are not saying that the people who run Sega World are not fit and proper people, nor are we saying there is no place for them in Bournemouth. It just seems to attract some of the wrong people who are bent on causing problems."

Leisure Exchange's solicitor, Sarah Smith, said: "All we are trying to do is relocate our premises to a smaller site. We have been in Westover Road for 13 years, have 24-hour CCTV and employ excellent staff."

Bournemouth's Licensing Board last week granted Sega World a permit until February 2007 with the proviso that at least two staff would be on-site at all times.

First published: February 8

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