Fears rise as night falls in Hadleigh

ANTI Social Behaviour Orders have become a badge of honour to some young people, and recent incidents around Britain suggest some of today's generation are out of control.

ANTI Social Behaviour Orders have become a badge of honour to some young people, and recent incidents around Britain suggest some of today's generation are out of control. Residents in Hadleigh certainly think so. On a Friday night REBECCA LEFORT went out with the police tackling both anti-social behaviour and the growing fear of crime.

AS darkness falls in Hadleigh tonight, the teenagers will go out and the adults will retreat inside.

At least that is the way many residents feel about the tense situation in their town.

They recently told police they were afraid to report crimes because of the fear of reprisals, and concerned about going anywhere they might encounter youngsters on a Friday night.

I ventured out with Pc Donna Jackson, who has worked in Hadleigh for 18 months. We started the evening by approaching a group of youngsters hanging out near the town's swimming pool in Stonehouse Road.

Some of the group are drinking alcohol, some just smoking and chatting to their friends. Although they aren't causing any problems it is soon clear some people may find their very presence as part of a large, young, group, intimidating.

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Pc Jackson said: "We're having a chat with them because, if nothing else, it shows we have a presence. We often see the same old faces and they come to recognise us. We can move them on but it only moves them somewhere else. It's good to have a presence though and we hope that by simply talking to them it helps.”

So we chat…Pc Jackson is on a first name basis with many of them, and asks them about their lives, showing she genuinely does care about them. Throughout the conversations there is friendly banter but if they step over the line Pc Jackson makes sure she lets them know who is in charge. “I promise you that however loud you raise your voice, mine will be louder,” she booms at one of them.

Eventually the group move on, and we return briefly to the station for an update of what has been going on around town.

Later we return to the same spot and the youngsters, ranging from around 15 to 25, have got rowdier, probably thanks to the alcohol they started drinking at 6pm. They're still not doing anything wrong, and although Pc Jackson gives one particularly foul-mouthed man a public order warning, the banter continues. The kids seem to really like her and look up to her, even the ones she tells me she has arrested in the past.

Operation FARO is the police's zero tolerance mission to deal with anti-social behaviour, criminal damage, drug and alcohol abuse in Hadleigh town centre - a difficult task considering some youngsters consider an ASBO a status symbol. It stands for 'Focus Attention on community Reassurance by Operating proactively.'

Later in the night things get more serious and I see another side to Operation FARO than just talking.

The control room receives reports of trouble at the Cock Inn, so we speed up to see what was going on and the landlords warn Pc Jackson that a group of local lads had looked like they might start a fight with some Polish men who had been drinking in the pub.

We search for the suggested ringleader and once Pc Jackson spots him lurking up a dark alleyway she firmly warns him not to start a fight. At first he doesn't seem to be listening, but eventually the message appears to sink in - and a nasty fight is averted.

After that things appear to die down as we approach 1am. One man is stopped and searched on suspicion of having drugs, after he gave a false name and acted in a suspicious manner. He is taken to the police station and searched, but found not to have any drugs on him.

Finally we all return to the police station to discuss the evening's events.

Sergeant Alice Robertson, who set up Operation FARO, said: “The operations is about engaging with the youngsters rather than vilifying them. We are aware of the need to improve safety and quality of life to the neighbouring community including businesses and residents affected by this activity. We also aim to reassure those affected that we are taking this problem seriously and that we will deal with it in a positive manner.

“The message we wish to convey is that this behaviour will no longer be tolerated and we will deal positively with anyone committing offences by adopting a zero-tolerance approach.”

She added: “It has been successful because we have been out there and we didn't take and rubbish from them. We are thinking on our feet and using our intuition.

“We have to be seen to be using our powers, if we let them off and don't engage with them we run the risk of making things much worse. We're not waiting for things to happen we're out there stopping it."

Do you think more should be done to tackle anti-social behaviour in Hadleigh? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

YOUNGSTERS in Hadleigh are used to being told they are a nuisance and anti-social.

Hence they find the approach of police officers like Pc Donna Jackson, who gets to know them while she keeps them in line, refreshing.

Leanne Quinton, 17, from Clopton Gardens in Hadleigh, said she thought the police's attitude was the right one if they want to keep her and her pals in check. She said: "We prefer it when they talk to us instead of having a go. Instead of just moaning at us. It is good for the police and it probably does get us to be a bit better-behaved when we're out."

Her friend, 17-year-old Staci Thomson, of Highlands Road, Hadleigh, added: "It makes us feel more comfortable. If they were horrible we'd run away from them and not listen, but if they're nice, we'll stay."

However Peter Woods, who was recently given as CRASBO (a criminal anti-social behaviour order) banning him from pubs in the town, said much more needed to be done for young people.

The 25-year-old of Bradfield Avenue, said: “I think they should build more social housing so people like me can have a house and somewhere to go - then I'd drink in the house.

“Maybe detached housing or young people living next door to each other, not to older people who we upset with the noise. And if we can't have that, an area in town where we can go and are allowed to stay. We sometimes go near the river and we are moved on but there is no one around there so we should be allowed to stay.”

Mr Woods added that demonising young people actually fuelled their nuisance behaviour sometimes, as the groups could see their criminal records as a good thing.

He said: “ASBOs can be seen as a badge of honour by some of the young people, not by me.”

Other teenagers and young adults agreed, saying more facilities needed to be built to keep them out of trouble and make their life more exciting.