A TOP investor who has pumped £12 million into the city centre over the last five years has called for action over the levels of anti-social behaviour in the city centre.

But according to Gwent Police, reported incidents have gone down by half since the creation of a special ‘tasking team’ in the city centre, just over three weeks ago.

Richard Hayward, of Richard Hayward Properties, told the South Wales Argus he was moved to speak out after stopping an old lady having her handbag stolen outside the old passport office development on Upper Dock Street.

Mr Hayward’s development of the old passport office is made up of 62 flats and a commercial space on the ground floor.

But since scaffolding went up, Mr Hayward says his staff have spent a lot of time dealing with children climbing the scaffolding.

The property developer also voiced concerns about the number of homeless people and “vagrants” on the streets around the development site.

Mr Hayward said: “I’m not just talking about homeless people, but about drug users too.

“They are roaming the streets causing severe distress to people in the city centre generally.

“Apparently incidents like the one I saw are common. Having seen it with my own eyes, I can believe they are.

“The wider population of Newport need to get involved. I think people should speak to their local councillors about this, and raise it whenever they can.

“It’s becoming a major concern, particularly for developers who are trying to put so much into the city.

“All of this effort and optimism could all be ruined by a small group of people causing these issues in the city centre.

“The last thing we want now is for Newport to get a bad reputation. The city should flourish and fulfil the promise and potential it is showing, rather than becoming numbed by crime and anti-social behaviour which will drive people away.”

But Gwent Police, who created a ‘city centre tasking team’ of 12 officers and one June 15, say reported levels of crime in the area have halved since then.

A spokesman added: “We are well aware of the public concern about crime and antisocial behaviour in Newport city centre.

“This is a priority for us, and we are working hard to deal with offenders and provide a reassuring presence.”

A spokesman for Newport City Council said that despite Mr Hayward’s concerns, city centre safety is a priority for the council, and developers were still showing an interest in the city centre.

The spokesman said: “The continuing regeneration work, bringing more people into the city centre to live, work and visit, will help to improve the environment.

“Only this week, planning permission was granted for a four-star hotel, offices and commercial use of Chartist Tower, including the former vacant BhS store.

“Newport is not a unique city in experiencing problems such as crime, anti-social behaviour or rough sleeping. We do take the issues that are causing concern extremely seriously and action is being taken by a range of agencies to tackle these in a number of ways.”