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REIGN OF TERROR: Trouble-causing youths spark special meeting

REIGN OF TERROR: Trouble-causing youths spark special meeting

Cleveland Police vehicles, Image: Evening Gazette

A “little reign of terror” plaguing Ingleby Barwick householders has sparked a special meeting for worries to be aired. 

Frustrations over youths causing trouble spilled over at Tuesday night’s town council meeting where almost 30 residents packed into the Rings Community Hub.

The underpass between The Rings and Broomhill, at Bowood Close, and youngsters coming down from Sandgate Shops were flagged up as trouble hotspots.

And concerns about drug use, fires, BB guns, spitting, and stones being thrown at cars have triggered a separate special town council meeting – with police, politicians, and security leaders to be invited.

One resident told councillors there had been two assaults this week and “fairly severe drug use” in the underpass.

“There are a lot of other people in this room affected by it,” he added.

He showed councillors a three foot long piece of wood he said had been thrown into a garden.

Another resident said they’d faced escalating problems since June last year from a “common group” of youths.

One man said he’d had to pay a £150 car repair bill after it was hit by a stone.

Resident Barbara Whitmore told the committee she wanted to move from her home at the Sandgate complex due to the troubles.

“I’ve had enough of it,” she added.

The meeting also heard some householders couldn’t move from their homes due to “drug dealing outside their properties”.

One man told councillors he was set upon by eight youths on Sunday after asking them to move on.

“I’ve bruises and lumps on my chin,” he added.

Another mother said she’d been spat at outside her own home – and her daughter had faced stones being thrown.

“They have absolutely zero respect,” she added.

There was an allegation that an enforcement officer had moved on youths by telling them to “do their drugs somewhere else” to “give residents a rest for a week”.

And concerns were also aired about drug dealing on Greensforge Drive – with one resident saying she dared not go out at night due to the problems.

“Five or six key individuals”

Residents said they’d reported troubles to police and Stockton Council – but there was frustration at the perceived lack of action.

Chairman Cllr James Emmerson said he appreciated the concerns – and councillors agreed levels of anti-social behaviour in Ingleby Barwick were “not acceptable”.

But he added it was “largely beyond” the town council’s reach to deal with the problems.

Jamie Stephenson, community protection manager at Stockton Council, told residents he empathised with their experiences – adding they were “on with” addressing the trouble.

Mr Stephenson said: “It must seem frustrating from your point of view that it seems there’s nothing happening – but rest assured it is.

“We’ve identified a key five or six individuals taking part in this activity.

“We have since signed them up to acceptable behaviour contracts.”

The protection chief said the council had to put preventative measures in place – and children could not be put straight into the criminal justice system.

He also urged residents to keep reporting trouble to the authorities.

“What we have to do is work with them, their families and with our partners within youth offending teams, schools and safeguarding,” added Mr Stephenson.

“If they choose to ignore that, and problems continue, we can then take further action.”

“Beyond unacceptable behaviour”

Cllr Ted Strike, member for the east ward, said troubles had “escalated massively” since he and Cllr Sally Ann Watson had met police leaders a fortnight ago.

He proposed a joint meeting with the force, ward councillors, and other public bodies for householders to have their say.

Resident Neil McCabe said the problems had “gone beyond unacceptable behaviour”.

He added: “We’re hearing tonight there is an offensive weapon involved, an assault involved, and drug dealing involved.

“This is a police matter – the police should be taking control of this.

“No disrespect to the enforcement guys, but they don’t have the power to deal with this – and anti-social behaviour contracts will not work with the individuals.

“You want proper policing enforcement action.”

Later, he questioned whether the town council was happy with the enforcement service it was getting – fearing a service was being paid for twice on the estate.

BB guns seized

After most residents had departed, Mr Stephenson told councillors Bancroft Drive had recorded a high number of calls to the enforcement service – totalling 34 since the last town council meeting.

He said they were on with tackling the trouble – adding it featured regularly in morning meetings with police.

Mr Stephenson also confirmed BB guns had been seized and destroyed in joint visits on the estate.

Calls have been sounded in the past for a police base to be installed at the new Ingleby Barwick leisure centre to help boost a presence on the estate.

Cllr Emmerson said enforcement officer powers were capped and the town council couldn’t buy police.

He added: “We require more police officers – never mind in Ingleby Barwick, but nationally.

“Ultimately, that is beyond the remit of this town council.

“Am I happy with what enforcement provides given the remit they’ve got? Personally, yes.

“Do I think it’s enough to tackle the problems we’ve got in Ingleby Barwick? No.”

“Push hard down on them”

Cllr Strike said the town council had strived in vain to pay for more police officers on the estate in the past.

He hoped all six Ingleby ward councillors, town councillors, police, the Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner, and Stockton South MP Matt Vickers could attend the special meeting when a time and date was confirmed.

Cllr Strike added: “We’ve got to stop these individuals from their little reign of terror – we’ve got to push hard down on them.

“We’ve got limited powers through enforcement (officers) – and that’s not their fault.”

After the meeting, Stockton mayor Cllr Kevin Faulks hit out at government cutbacks to police in the past decade.

The member for Ingleby Barwick West said: “When you’ve lost 500 officers since 2010, and you replace them with 330 apprentices, it’s a joke.”

Force responds

Inspector Jon Willoughby, from Stockton Neighbourhood Policing Team, said the force was aware of some issues in Ingleby – with a “small rise” in anti-social behaviour reports in the early part of September.

He added: “The neighbourhood police team have worked with our partners in Stockton Council community safety to target the main offenders and locations, resulting in a number of males being issued with acceptable behaviour contracts.

“We are working to tackle addresses believed to be dealing in controlled drugs.

“Further work is ongoing to address some pockets of disorder that have developed.

“Any criminal activity including drug dealing in a community is a huge concern and we know that it can have a massive impact on people’s lives. We thank the public who have contacted us to report this and urge people to continue to do so.

“Local officers will be engaging with the community to discuss their concerns and will be acting upon them. We are adopting a proactive prevention approach to reducing issues and this includes diversionary work and outreach.

“We would advise those with any information to call ourselves on 101, report via our website or go through Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”


Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Demcoracy Reporter

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