Police crack down on ‘intimidating’ Stevenage shopping centre youths

Tony Silverio, anti-social behaviour officer for Stevenage Borough Council, PCSO Pip Furr, PCSO Ashl

Tony Silverio, anti-social behaviour officer for Stevenage Borough Council, PCSO Pip Furr, PCSO Ashley Young and PC Mark Williams - Credit: Archant

GANGS which have been gathering in a shopping precinct, intimidating people and affecting trade, are being tackled by police.

Youths have been harassing shoppers and retailers at the Marymead shopping centre in Broadwater Crescent, Stevenage, with police and the borough council receiving complaints over the past few months.

“Unfortunately many people find the behaviour of some of the youths that congregate in this area intimidating,” said neighbourhood sergeant Claire Harvey.

“This ranges from groups loitering in shop doorways, using unacceptable language, to harassing shoppers and occasionally causing criminal damage.

“We have been monitoring the situation and patrol the area regularly, but we are aware that once the police presence has gone the issues return.”

One shopkeeper, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “In the evenings there are gangs of youths outside the front door which, for the older customers, is quite intimidating.

“The teens are six-footers and in hoodies, so people are going to think twice about coming in.

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“It’s been going on for a while but has escalated quite a lot over the last three or four months. It’s affecting business.”

Another retailer called the situation “a nightmare”, claiming youths climbed on scaffolding and banged on shop windows.

Shopper Geoffrey Brecht said: “Crowds of kids put people off coming here. It doesn’t intimidate me, but it’s the elderly people, especially in Gladstone Court.”

Another shopper, who did not want to be named, added: “I won’t come over here after six o’clock. It’s not just three or four youths, it’s a dozen. I think it stops a lot of older people coming from the flats over here because they are scared. I know I’m scared.”

Herts Police and Stevenage Borough Council have joined forces to tackle the situation.

Police are contacting the parents of those involved and informing them of their children’s behaviour.

If the letters fail to address the issue, officers will consider issuing a banning notice to prevent the offenders entering certain shops.

The families of the offending youths could also find themselves in breach of their tenancy or mortgage agreements if the anti-social behaviour continues.

Police anti-social behaviour officer Theresa Patten said: “We have a whole range of tactics we are prepared to use to tackle this issue if we have to. We will also consider applying for ASBOs if necessary.”

Posters warning the youths about the possible consequences of their behaviour have been put up in the area.

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