Cuts are blamed for rise in anti-social behaviour
SWINGEING cuts to youth services have been blamed for the anti-social behaviour problems plaguing the town.
Gangs of unruly teenagers are causing misery across Middleton, where residents complain of vandalism, drug and solvent use and intimidating behaviour.
‘Hotspots’ include Mainway shops in Alkrington, parts of Langley and Middleton town centre.
Police believe they have now identified the ‘ringleaders’ and are taking steps to address the issue by working with schools, speaking to parents and the use of ‘acceptable behaviour contracts’ – or ABC’s.
A Police and Communities Together (PACT) meeting at Alkrington Community Centre heard residents horror stories about the chaos blighting their neighbourhoods.
And Councillor Pat Dale pointed the finger squarely at funding cuts over the last eight years for bringing the situation about.
She said: “There are two reasons we have a huge spike in anti-social behaviour:
“Firstly, criminals know that police are so overstretched there’s a good chance they are not going to be caught
“Secondly, there’s been huge cuts to the youth service, so we have kids on the street with nothing to do, so they club together and look to see where they can cause mayhem.”
Coun Dale told residents that plans were in the pipeline for a new youth club to open in Middleton Arndale Centre in February, and she hoped this might go some way to improving the situation.
She said: “Hopefully there will be somewhere for them to go. Because this is the issue – there’s nowhere for them to go.”
Coun Dale’s Middleton South ward colleague, Coun Peter Williams, agreed, with her assessment.
He told the meeting: “The council has no youth services to speak of really, we have one or two youth workers now, whereas we used to have a lot of them.
“It’s not a statutory service and the budget has been cut by £150m as part of all the general cuts to public services. It’s very difficult.”
Coun Williams said that Middleton now had one youth hub at Spring Vale, but provision was a ‘pale shadow’ compared to when there were centres across the town.
The extent of the chaos out-of-control teens have brought to the area was spelled out by a number of residents at the meeting.
Mike Brennan told how, on Halloween, youths had set fire to large trolleys they had dragged from behind the shops on to a nearby grass area.
He added: “The all of a sudden, like a herd of gazelles they all scarpered. I later found out that at the general store there were a load of youths, a mixed group, girls and boys, firing fireworks through people’s windows.
“One home had a disabled child, they caused numerous vehicles, damaged, scratched, doorpanels kicked-in.”
Another said that shopworkers had become so intimidated by youths’ ‘screaming and shouting’ they had considered closing up for the day.
PC Lee Bracey, of Middleton South, said police had used bodycam and CCTV footage from Alkrington and other areas, including the town centre, to identify the ring leaders.
He said: “We’ve identified them through schools, been to their parents’ houses and spoken to them in the company of their parents.
“We’ve got someone coming in for tenancy warning, as anti-social behaviour is a breach of a tenancy agreement if you have a council property
“And next week have a ring-leader coming in for an ABC acceptable behaviour contract – if that doesn’t work we will take it up a level.”
PC Bracey added that police had tried a variety of tactics, including altering shift patterns, and varying between plain clothes and high-visibility policing to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour in the area.
Mainway shops in Alkrington Google Maps
Councillor Pat Dale