Police to take stronger actions and search for solutions to tackle anti-social behaviour in youths
Tougher action will be taken against repeat criminal offenders despite improvements in anti-social behaviour levels, police have warned.
Since October, groups of between 10 to 15 children - some as young as 12 - have been congregating on Friday and Saturday nights in areas of King Street and Bridge Street, Thetford.
Residents have raised concerns over their intimidating presence due to their numbers and the noise they create.
Police have said there have been reports of assaults, usually pushing and shoving, evidence of under-age drinking and two individuals have been found in possession of a penknife and knuckle duster.
Insp Jo Walmsley said extra police resources have been provided to try and nip the behaviour in the bud while it is “relatively low level”.
She said: “Sometimes the intimidation is the volume of people and sometimes it is not that they are doing anything other than meeting in a group.
“But unfortunately you get the situation in a large group where people get dared to do things and they start to get abusive towards people.”
Section 35 dispersal notices have been issued, which gives the police power to take those aged over 10 and under 16 home. But Insp Walmsley has said they will start excluding youths from certain areas of the town for a set amount of time.
If the teenagers breach it, they could end up being arrested.
Insp Walmsley said: “We have been trying desperately hard not to criminalise children. We know how it impacts them right the way through their adult life.”
She added: “There is a concern in the community that they have weapons. We have dealt with a few who have had weapons on them. There is a concern that the youths are not considering the consequences of their actions.
“No-one knows how someone will react when put under pressure by others. The risks of causing injury to themselves or others, whether intentional or not, by carrying or brandishing a weapon is extremely high.”
Insp Walmsley said since the added resources have been used, including uniformed and plain clothes police officers carrying out patrols, community members have reported an improvement in anti-social behaviour levels.
Finding a solution
Breckland police have been working with local shops and organisations to find a long-term solution to help quell the anti-social behaviour.
“It cannot just be patrols but needs to involve a partnership approach,” said Inspector Walmsley. “It is about trying to find out what these kids want and what will stop their behaviour and if there is a way we can divert some of them.
“We are looking at other areas around the country and how they have tackled it and if we can bring those ideas here. It is also about improving their relationships with the police. We are tying to show them the human side of policing.
“We want to help and support them. There are an awful lot of people out there who want to help the youths but it is if they want to engage.”
She added: “The one thing I would urge people to do is if you do know what your children are up to, to go down the town centre and find out if they are your children.”