Cuts are blamed for rise in anti-so­cial be­hav­iour

Middleton Guardian - - FRONT PAGE - BY NICK STATHAM

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

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