Clear message sent out to “bored” estate youngsters

The Ridge Square on The Ridge estate in Lancaster.
The Ridge Square on The Ridge estate in Lancaster.

A pilot project aimed at reducing anti social behaviour on a Lancaster estate has been hailed a success by police.

A six month dispersal order allowing police on the Ridge Estate to send unruly youngsters home came to an end on May 31.

It was the first time the powers - which allow police to move groups of troublemakers away from a designated area, in this case Ridge Square - have been used in Lancaster and Morecambe, with children as young as six subject to the order.

PCSO Aaron Wieclawski from the Central Neighbourhood Team said that in the first month, the order had reduced call outs to the police by 50 per cent, and sent a clear message to young people about the behaviour expected of them.

He said: “It gave young people a good set of behavioural boundaries which for the most part they adhered to.

“We didn’t actually need to use it until the second month, and it was for things like noise nuisance, anti social behaviour and a few cases of criminal damage. It was usually met with with more than one patrol, but the youths were usually quite compliant, they all moved on and stayed away.

“The residents and the businesses loved it and were sad to see it go.”

PCSO Wieclawski said that at first the young people, who cited “boredom” as the main cause for their frustrations, thought they were being targetted and blamed for everything but after a bit of disagreement they accepted it.

“The vast majority have understood it, and although there was a minority that continued to cause issues, the others are well aware that appropriate action will come if behaviour does deteriorate.

“The majority of parents live on adjacent streets, so a lot weren’t aware of the problems in the square, but since they’ve been informed, incidents have reduced. A large part of this comes down to the parents.”

PCSO Wieclawski said that young people were complaining that they were bored due to a lack of facilities in the area.

“We try and discuss with them what they would like to do, and a lot of it seems to be boredom related.”

The youth centre has just been given extra funding so it can open four nights a week, and agency Strawberry Fields have been running football sessions at the MUGA in Ambleside Road.

“It’s been very successful, now that the incidents are lower, we’ve just got to make sure we keep it up.”

Paul Ireland, from Strawberry Fields said: “We’ve had a good response.

“We’re getting around 20 people at each (football) session.

“It’s a bit of a trek down to the MUGA from the Ridge, but it often just takes one person with a voice to make something happen.

“This is really just what dads used to do in the past.

“I think all the agencies have taken the issues on board, chipped in little bits, and it’s really had an effect.”