Thursday, 10 April 2008

Living in Fear

On Wednesday evening, Cllr Fred Lawton and I held one of our regular surgeries in Morrisons on North Road. Three local residents - angry and frightened - came in to tell us about the Anti-Social Behaviour they are suffering from in the Riverside/ Havelock/ Albert Road Bridge area. Earlier in the week, the local Street Champion had been in touch about the same problem.

So, after surgery, Fred and I walked over there. On the way, we saw a small group of under-age kids drinking cans of lager outside the Londis shop on North Road. On arriving at Albert Bridge we saw perhaps 20 or 30 youths congregating in the area, drinking alcohol and generally being rowdy. Because we knew that this could escalate into something much worse for local residents if this was allowed to continue throughout the evening, Fred called the wardens, who responded immediately. Three wardens arrived in a van, which they parked on Albert Road.

The wardens approached the group and managed to confiscate some of the drink, but the kids broke up into smaller groups, while other, younger kids appeared as if by magic to join in "the fun". They started hurling abuse at the wardens, confronting them directly. Their language was foul, their body language intimidating and frightening. Eventually the police were called and the kids dispersed, no doubt to re-form somewhere else later. Their ages ranged from about 12 up to about 16. Their behaviour and language was absolutely disgraceful.

Frankly, I was amazed at how calmly the wardens dealt with the situation, which I thought was both unpleasant and intimidating. Ordinary residents would be well advised to keep well clear of situations like this, which is very upsetting. I spoke to a couple of elderly residents in the area who warned me to keep away from the gang. They clearly felt threatened in their own homes.

I despair when I see the behaviour of these kids. They had absolutely no respect for authority or the feelings of other people. They were taunting the wardens because they knew they couldn't touch them. One wonders what their home life is like if they think it is acceptable to behave like that.

At the North Road Community Partnership Meeting on Tuesday, the police gave a report to the group. It was apparent from that meeting, from telephone calls received by me and Fred and from our experiences since that meeting, that parts of North Road ward is plagued by unruly young people.

Morrison’s car park and the grassy area behind the service road to the neighbouring small trading estate has become the nightly playground of drinking, smoking, urinating, rioting, wrecking young people.
The elderly residents – and the younger ones too – of North Riverside Estate are terrified to go out at night. Gangs of fifty or sixty youngsters gather near the Havelock Social Centre, so that people are frightened to go near, or more often down under the Albert Road Bridge, which they have made their filthy gathering place.

Apparently a man was assaulted earlier in the week by the youths when he was on the bridge taking pictures of the river. On Wednesday evening, while the wardens were dealing with the problem under the bridge, their van parked on Albert Road had its wing mirrors kicked off!

At the end of last week youths blocked the road at the junction of Whessoe Road and Longfield Road. A lady driving down the road at 11pm had to get out of her car to move the obstacles. She was abused by the youths standing by. What a terrifying experience.

We need a multi agency approach to tackle this issue of unruly, disrespectful, destructive young people. We need investment in the provision of community facilties in the north end of the town, so that the good kids in the gangs can enjoy themselves in a way that does not terrify the adult population. We need sticks as well as carrots to do this job. The controlling authorities, wardens and police, can’t cope. Otherwise why does everyone, yes EVERYONE, we speak to say that when they ring the police they never come.
Perhaps Councillor Dixon, who stated in Cabinet and repeated in Council that the fear of crime would fall if people stopped watching "The Bill", should come and spend the evening in North Riverside Estate. He could turn the tv off and look out the window!

A depressing and worrying week in North Road Ward.

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