EFFORTS are being stepped-up to combat anti-social behaviour in a churchyard.

The grounds of Keighley Shared Church in the town centre have become a haunt for drinkers.

Signs of drug use have also been found amongst the gravestones.

And reports have been received of seemingly-stolen goods being sold behind the historic building.

Now church bosses are working with Bradford Council and the police to try to combat the problems.

Team Rector, the Reverend Mike Cansdale, said clean-ups had been staged and lighting improved.

But he added that other potential measures were being examined.

"We are aware that there is an issue and we have been looking at this as a church council," said Mr Cansdale.

"We're in discussions with Bradford Council, because while the site belongs to the church, the local authority has responsibility for its upkeep.

"Our aim is to improve the environment and ensure the wellbeing of people who legitimately use the churchyard."

He said the site was kept open most of the time, because a recognised thoroughfare linking Church Green with the market area passes through it.

"There is an issue with people congregating and drinking alcohol – not just young people, but older members of the community too," said Mr Cansdale.

"It is a public space and using the area as somewhere to meet in itself isn't necessarily a problem, but it's when their behaviour becomes dangerous to themselves or unsociable to others that it is an issue.

"There have also been signs of drug use and I'm told that stolen goods are sold on there, although I haven't witnessed that.

"With regards to young people who congregate there, I'm speaking to youth service leaders to see if we can work together to provide opportunities."

He added: "We don't wish to stop people using the churchyard but we want to make it a safe place.

"It's a beautiful spot and somewhere where people should be able to sit and find peace and quiet."

Inspector Khalid Khan, of Keighley Partnership Working Area, said officers have been liaising with the church and partner agencies regarding incidents of anti-social behaviour and underage drinking in the grounds but no evidence has yet been found of stolen goods being handled there.

"The anti-social behaviour has quite rightly caused concerns and we believe – as a result of ongoing enquiries – that we know who is responsible," he said.

"Action will be taken to trace the perpetrators and we have patrols continuing in the area, which have been responding to the reports of anti-social behaviour.

"I would ask anyone who has any information to contact Keighley Neighbourhood Policing team on 101. Information can also be given anonymously to the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111."

Councillor Abdul Jabar, Bradford Council’s executive member for neighbourhoods and community safety, said: “Our youth service has been speaking to local young people in the church grounds over the summer to encourage them to take part in positive activities, as well as working individually with several vulnerable individuals to help them make more informed decisions about their own personal safety.

“We are in discussion with the church as to how we can best work together to address these issues further.”