Calls for united front against antisocial behaviour after wrecking spree by vandals in South Shields
Weeks of damage to bus stops, car windows, Metro ticket machines, telephone boxes, businesses and properties in and around South Shields led to a meeting on Friday, February 25, hosted by Beacon and Bents councillor Angela Hamilton to discuss the ‘on-going problem’ with antisocial behaviour across the borough.
Sergeant Chris Eccleston of Northumbria Police, speaking at the event at Arbeia bar in Ocean Road, told how the borough had seen, among other incidents, 15 to 20 youths aged between 12 and 16 using hammers to smash both public and private property including an ATM.
Sgt Eccleston said: “We have several operations in place including uniformed and non-uniformed officers in and around Jarrow and South Shields Interchange to tackle this kind of behaviour.
"We have an idea of who these repeat offenders are but we’re trying to paint a bigger picture of what’s happening to link the dots to identify those responsible.
"The force want residents and visitors across South Tyneside to feel safe and so we ask everyone to keep reporting any antisocial incident so we can put an end to this disruption.”
During the meeting, business owners and ward councillors questioned a ‘lack’ of youth club activities in the area.
Councillor Angela Hamilton said: “I’ve lived here all my life and it’s never been this bad, and we just won’t accept it.
"Are these kids carrying out these attacks due to boredom? Children don’t want to go to council youth clubs like we did as kids, it would need to be something more ‘cool’ for this generation of children.”
While some agreed with ‘traditional’ punishments for offenders such as litter picking and community service, others argued that sending out a threatening message would be less beneficial.
Stephen Sullivan, owner of Ziggy’s bar in Prince Georg Square, said: “I don’t think this generation cares, so I think a new approach is needed. Problems surrounding antisocial behaviour have been going on for a while and nothing has been done.
“We keep reporting incidents but we’re not any further forward, we need engagement with the police and council because the issues are still here.
"People do not feel safe, I don’t feel safe, there’s gangs of youths in the bus station at all hours of the day, around the McDonald’s and on the Metro and absolutely nothing is being sorted.”
Suggestions from other business owners in a bid to tackle the problem included work experience education in schools.
Andrew Whittaker, corporate lead for town centres and foreshore at South Tyneside Council, said: "We want people to not turn a blind eye to incidents and report them every time something happens so we can build intelligence, analyse it and prevent antisocial behaviour from happening.
“We must do this collectively with the council, police, businesses and people. We want this town centre to not just thrive but survive.”
Stuart Wright, head of environment at South Tyneside Council added: “We don’t want to portray South Shields like this and we’re working to resolve these issues but the bottom line of it is see it and report it so we can gather all the information, identify the hot spots and tackle it.”