Bored teenagers talk to Star

THUNDERING blades cut through the silence as a police helicopter circled above – they had spotted their target.On a derelict park, a group of teenagers wandered off to spend another night on the streets.

By Victoria Knowles

THUNDERING blades cut through the silence as a police helicopter circled above – they had spotted their target.

On a derelict park, a group of teenagers wandered off to spend another night on the streets.

The helicopter slowed and circled the lads, watching their every move, tailing them, letting them know they were being watched.

The park where the lads spend most of their evenings is overgrown and covered in dog's mess. A huge white wall sits in the middle full of graffiti. Rusting swings creak in the wind as a young mum watches her children play.

It is uninviting, somewhere you would not walk alone at night and somewhere you would definitely not take your children - given the choice.

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This could be anywhere - but it is here in Ipswich. St. Augustine's Recreation Ground, on the Priory Heath estate in the heart of South East Ipswich.

Over recent weeks the Evening Star has named and shamed teenagers from different parts of Ipswich who have breached their anti-social behaviour orders.

Their faces have stood for all that is bad with youth today. But what is really going on in our parks and in the lives of those teenagers who live in these areas?

The Star spoke to some of the youths who could become the subject of an Asbo.

"There is nothing for us here. What can we do except hang out in the streets?" These words echoed throughout all the gang as they spoke to the Star about life for them.

"If I could have anything it would be a race track. They (the council) promised us loads of things but they never came through.

"They were going to give us a hut and said we could help build it but we are still waiting for it," said one lad.

"If they kept their promises perhaps we would keep ours," added another.

At 16 they all wore the standard uniform of baseball cap and tracksuit. They had a defensive attitude but they were just kids and they wanted to impress.

They made it clear they had no respect for the police and that their constant presence often made them want to react just for the thrill of the chase.

"We hate the police. They just come down on us for anything. I have no respect for them. If they do come down here and we have not done anything it makes us want to annoy them.

"It is the thrill of the chase and so we do stuff just to get them to come after us.

"I used to have respect for the council but that has gone now as they do not do anything for us."

They readily admit they have all been in trouble, one boasted that both his brothers were in prison. Some are expelled from school and all of them are desperately bored.

"People see us as trouble makers round here but I do not give a toss what they think about us. Normally we just sit around and do not cause any trouble. Most of us have been in trouble with the police for different things and they just make it worse."

They all say they have smashed cars and caused damage but that they do so simply because they are frustrated and this is how they vent it. While this is not an excuse, it is an explanation.

There is a feeling of hopelessness which hits harder than any threat these lads may pose.

Another talked about how they feel the Asbos that the council seem to think are the solution to the problem make no difference to them.

"They are brought in by the council and I have no respect for them. Telling us what to do will not make us stop. Telling us where to go and what time to get in will not help. They are just a laugh and they will not have any effect.

"If they want to help then they need to give us something to do. You can see what it is like here."

"What would help was if they showed us some respect. That is it, respect."

The lads walk over to the park and talk about life and what it has in store for them.

One young lad is expelled and another said he was simply doing nothing all day. When asked what they wanted for the future one lad said: "To get a job, but it is not that easy," said one, his voice a muffled mix of cigarette smoke adolescent unease.

"School was terrible and a waste of time – I couldn't wait to leave," added another.

Sitting on the grass the smell of cannabis is impossible to miss. It is pointed out to them and they just laugh.

"Are you going to put us in the paper for smoking grass? Go on put our names in for that."

It is clear that going to court and having orders imposed on them is a way of life. It has kudos attached to it and they flaunt it blatantly.

In only a short while with these boys it is obvious an Asbo would never be enough on its own to deal with the problems.

Sarah Aquino lives in the area and works with Sure start and other organisations to help build confidence in the area.

She also said that there was a growing problem with heroin and that there were always used needles on the park.

"I would love to take my kids over there but there are used needles over there, not to mention the dogs mess.

"We really need to start working as a community and start changing this. But we need help and funding to do it. We are not stupid and people need to treat us like individuals and not tell us what they are going to do but ask us.

"The lads just get frustrated because they come over the park and it looks like this and also they see that nothing is getting done.

"I always go and talk to the lads and I have never had a problem. They need to be given opportunities and we need to build their confidence so they can start to achieve things."

The youths wandered off just as the helicopter appeared.

What will they get up to tonight? Mrs Aquino replied: "They will hang around the streets, just like they always do – what else is there?"

Is boredom just an excuse?

Do you think there are enough opportunities for young people today?

Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN.