Res­i­dents liv­ing in fear as gangs of ‘feral youths’ run riot in Val­leys town

Western Mail - - NEWS - ANNA LEWIS Re­porter anna.lewis@waleson­

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

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