Vandalism drops as cops get tough
POLICE say measures to reduce criminal damage have already taken effect. Officers in Stevenage have been working with the local firefighters, Stevenage Borough Council and North Hertfordshire College to try to reduce criminal damage in the town, which is
POLICE say measures to reduce criminal damage have already taken effect.
Officers in Stevenage have been working with the local firefighters, Stevenage Borough Council and North Hertfordshire College to try to reduce criminal damage in the town, which is linked to large groups of young people gathering.
Starting towards the end of last year, police have been carrying out high visibility patrols in problem areas such as Bedwell, Shephall and Chells.
They say that already there have been reductions in the number of incidents of criminal damage.
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Across the three areas, there was a 19.8 per cent reduction in the number of incidents in January this year when compared to January 2006.
Figures for February this year showed a reduction of 23.7 per cent on last year.
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Chief inspector Steve Amoss said: "The initial signs are encouraging and it's showing that with this robust approach with high visibility policing we're having a substantial effect on the youth that gathers in this area."
He added: "We are committed to addressing the problem.
"We will make sure that when we have information we act on it."
The operation to control criminal damage across not only Bedwell, Shephall and Chells but also in the rest of the town will continue.
The fire service's contribution to the scheme has included environmental action days, which help clear away rubbish and abandoned cars.
Dave Stokes, commander at Stevenage Fire Station, said: "The simple thing for me is that if the rubbish isn't there the kids can't set fire to it."
Firefighters at Stevenage are also soon to join a county-wide initiative where young people referred to them by the police will spend a week taking part in training.
College students are currently producing a DVD to warn their peers of the consequences of being involved in criminal activity.
The borough council has been doing its part to try to provide young people with somewhere to go to stop them loitering on the streets.
Projects such as the Youth Chill Out at the Hyde Out and the Upfront Football Project have proved very popular.
* As part of their bid to control young people gathering in the town, police have been granted a section 30 dispersal order for Bedwell. The order means that anybody caught acting in an anti-social manner can be requested to leave the area by officers and if they return within a 24-hour period they can be arrested for breach of the order.
But one 15-year-old is not convinced it is a good idea. Here, in his own words, is what he thinks should be done to solve the problem.
"I am concerned with the section 30 that is being put on my area, I think it is unjust. The section 30 is going to just make more problems.
"If you want the youth off the street you should give then somewhere to go. Bedwell is the only area with no youth club.
"I think the youth in Bedwell should be given a chance.
"I feel that we need to address the problem by giving the youth a youth club.
"Sending them away from where they live is not fair. Would you like to be told that you can't be where you live?
"The youth are part of the community as well.
"As a young person myself I would like to see some activities going on in Bedwell like five-a-side football games.
"We have a big patch of grass next to the shop that no one uses, you could make that into a football pitch.
"The Bedwell Community Centre is meant to be for the community but why are the youth not allowed to use the centre? We are part of the community too.
"If we did get access to the community centre we could put it to good use, for example to get ICT skills, to play indoor sports, to learn about life and social skills and to have somewhere we feel safe and happy.