Residents living in fear as gangs of ‘feral youths’ run riot in Valleys town
FIGHTS IN the street, trails of blood from the night before, vandalism, underage drinking and shopkeepers locking their doors to avoid abuse.
This is the reality people are facing in the Blaenau Gwent town of Abertillery.
Over the past two months, Gwent Police have issued dispersal orders on four different weekends to try to curb antisocial behaviour.
The goal is to stop the 30-strong groups who have been congregating in the town centre – with some travelling in from the surrounding area.
And it seems the issue is not restricted to just Friday or Saturday nights. Fights are said to have become a regular occurrence on the town’s High Street.
Poppy Cains, 28, said: “I have heard and witnessed so many fights that have come to blows. The next day I’ve walked up the high street and there’s trails of blood from the night before.
“I think the worst incident we witnessed was a group of about 20 youths beating up or physically assaulting another youth while those onlooking circled, watching. We called the police and they always say the same – they can’t do very much.”
Poppy said that on another occasion, she was confronted while walking to the supermarket.
She said: “Another group of youths about 12-16 years old were drinking and smoking and just in general being antisocial – they were in bus shelters and by the church.
“One youth flashed his privates at me, which obviously angered my boyfriend. David told the youths to be respectful and asked what the hell they think they were playing at. The next thing you know, the lad who flashed me was following us, trying to engage my boyfriend in a fight, which of course we walked away from.
“It’s disappointing that only now there has been a dispersal order put in place. The majority of the incidents happened over the summer months during the summer term break.”
For people living near Foundry Bridge, the problem is not limited to public areas.
One resident said she has come home to find groups of people gathering on the steps to her front garden.
She said: “They just sit on my front garden steps. I’ve caught them climbing into the next door’s front garden – the lady is on her own. I’ve confronted them but they choose to just ignore me and carry on talking amongst themselves.
“I just don’t feel safe in the house. My partner is away during the week, so it’s frightening on your own. They are in a big group, so you don’t know what they’re capable of.”
In the town centre one shopkeeper has resorted to locking the doors of her business to stop teenagers throwing objects inside. This means her own customers must knock on the door to be allowed in.
The Abertillery resident, who does not want to be named, said: “They are fighting in the middle of the street, smashing up bus stops, smashing everything they can get their hands on.
“They come in and out shouting. They threw a banger in the other day. We ask them to move and we get a mouthful. I don’t walk home at night on my own but staff do and it is intimidating.
“It’s got to the point where I lock the door at work so they don’t go in and out, but it stops customers coming in – they have to knock on the door. It’s not good for business, it’s not good for staff. And it’s not just on weekends, it’s every night.
“I was going through town the other evening, only at about 8pm, but there must have been one gang on one side and two smaller gangs on the other. There must have been about 30 or 50 people all kicking off. “
Janet Davies runs a printing shop in Abertillery with her husband.
Their business is one of a string of shops she claims have been vandalised in the town in recent months.
“At work we have an outbuilding. We came into work in the morning and the door had been kicked in.
“We fixed it straight away obviously – it only has a staff toilet there – but we didn’t want them getting in. It all takes time. My husband had to take a morning off to buy the materials. He runs the printing machine and lost a morning’s work because of it.
“I think they smashed a window the Sunday before at an estate agents.”
When a dispersal order is issued, police have the power to move on young people causing antisocial behaviour in the town centre. If they return to the designated area within 48 hours, that person risks being arrested.
But one Abertillery resident said the move has merely encouraged groups of teenagers to relocate to other parts of town instead.
Chelle Young, 36, said: “When there has been a dispersal order they have all been hanging around down Abertillery Park.
“They walk down our street smoking, drinking, swearing, mouthing off and pinching the recycling boxes so the recycling ends up all over the street. It’s about 30 kids. My food waste bin was emptied all over the car park. They set fire to them apparently and use it to get high.
“One night we came back at around half seven and there were kids walking up the street. One girl, she must have been about 12, was swaying. She had a bottle of rosé wine in one hand and a fag in the other.”
Chelle said she resorted to calling the police after her 14-year-old son was threatened and that on other nights the noise of people causing “havoc” in the street has kept her younger children, aged 11 and five, awake.
She said: “They wanted to beat him up. They were waiting for him to get off the bus, so we had to get the police involved. My younger ones were terrified.
“I feel sorry for the police, I really do. We all call 101, the police come down here but there’s not a lot they can do. If you move them from one place, they will just go somewhere else.”
To encourage young people to get off the streets, Abertillery RFC is now offering free training sessions to teenagers interested in joining the team.
But, due to antisocial behaviour, managers and coaches say they first have to spend their mornings removing broken alcohol bottles and shards off glass from the pitch.
Darren Davies, chairman of Abertillery RFC juniors and minis, said: “We have senior teams playing on Saturday down to under-sevens, so it’s just constant pitch inspections.
“These days you find yourself picking up bottles and shards of glass. It will only be a matter of time before the
‘I just don’t feel safe in the house. My partner is away during the week, so it’s frightening on your own’ LOCAL RESIDENT