Sunday, 12 July 2020

Recreation ground suffers more antisocial behaviour

Recreation ground suffers more antisocial behaviour

SECURITY could be stepped up at a recreation ground where the Henley skate park is located due to a growing problem with antisocial behaviour.

A town councillor says new fences and alarms could be installed if the trouble at Makins recreation ground, off Greys Road, does not stop.

The warning by Kellie Hinton comes after vandals removed part of a metal fence at the children’s playground and sprayed graffiti at the skate park, including blue swastikas on the grass.

This was the latest in a series of incidents, which have included alcohol being confiscated from youngsters, reports of drug-taking and a 10-year-old boy being punched.

Councillor Hinton, who chairs the town council’s recreation and amenities committee, called on parents to do more to stop their children misbehaving and accused police of failing to help.

She said: “We have had a real spate of it in the last few weeks and we are getting absolutely no response from the police. They say there’s no crime there.

“I would like them to actually respond. The police are not visible and because of that the kids think they can get away with anything they like. They should do their job. They are there to serve and protect.

“These are local kids whose parents live next door to the site and who need to start doing some proper parenting. Parents need to be asking their children where they are going and what they are doing. It’s their responsibility just as much as everybody else’s.

“I do not believe in coming down really hard on kids. You make mistakes when you are young and you learn from them. We just need a little bit of co-operation from the parents and the police.

“It’s really disappointing and sad but I think we have to be careful not to demonise young people in the skate park because if it wasn’t here, they would be congregating somewhere else.”

She said the number of incidents was putting pressure on the town council.

Cllr Hinton said: “At the moment I am dealing with at least two or three issues a week. What can we do? It is costing us money and staff time. I think young people need to appreciate that if they can’t respect the facilities, then there’s the potential that they could lose it.”

Cllr Hinton suggested parents could form a neighbourhood watch team to patrol the area and for the police to visit daily.

“An adult being there will be able to deal with an issue as it arises,” she said. “We are good at working together in Henley. If we can do something, we should. I would like the police to be a presence at key times, for instance, after school but also to carry out random spot checks in the evenings.”

Fellow town councillor Paula Isaac said: “We have all worked really hard to get this lovely facility and a small minority are just spoiling it for everybody that uses it.”

John Ellery, of Gainsborough Hill, said he had seen young people misbehaving.

He said: “They get up to all sorts of mischief up there. They play their rap music and smoke their pot or whatever you call it. They are rowdy and have started spraying graffiti on the skate park. If you say anything you just get a lot of verbal.

“I wouldn’t want my grandchildren to go down there on their own. They have got to get CCTV cameras there if they are going to stop it. You can’t expect police to be down there all the time.”

The skate park opened in 2017 and cost £290,000.

Simon McEvoy, also of Gainsborough Hill, said: “What’s the point of spending all that money if they are just going to break it?

“It’s about educating them and the parents and making them realise that the litter they are putting on the ground is causing this plastic problem that we have as well. They just don’t think. Their parents need to ask what they are doing.”

Youth and community project Nomad runs an outreach programme in the area to speak to vulnerable children.

Support worker Sue Prior said: “If this facility wasn’t here, the kids would go somewhere else in town. The reality is that it is a minority of young people who do not respect and value it. My concern is that we blow things out of all proportion. I’m not condoning bad behaviour, antisocial behaviour is wrong and needs to be addressed.”

Her colleague Angela Face said: “It’s a bit frustrating that the skate park gets labelled with the antisocial behaviour. A lot of people come to use this facility. We have people from little kids to adults using it.”

Police said their neighbourhood officers conducted proactive patrols and responded to intelligence.

They added: “Please continue to tell us what you know and we will act on it.”

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