Action to tackle island's terror youths

By James HoreA COMMUNITY plagued by the menace of anti-social behaviour and petty crime is hoping to tackle the issue head on.The picturesque island town of West Mersea has been blighted by vandalism and an increase in under-age drinking.

By James Hore

A COMMUNITY plagued by the menace of anti-social behaviour and petty crime is hoping to tackle the issue head on.

The picturesque island town of West Mersea has been blighted by vandalism and an increase in under-age drinking.

Last summer saw a “staggering number” of attacks on beach huts and now some elderly residents are said to be too afraid to go out at night after suffering abuse.

Problems of minor crime have increased in the past two years and there has been growing evidence of drug use, with discarded needles being found around the town.

Now a multi-agency partnership, known as United Solutions, is set to meet to come up with ways of tackling crime and finding ways to engage youngsters in the community.

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The group will see town and borough councillors and the police meet next week to try to find answers to the island's problems.

John Jowers, the Colchester borough councillor for West Mersea, said a “hardcore” group of youngsters between the ages of 11 and 20 was causing much of the trouble.

“There is definitely a problem on the island - I have suffered it myself. It is a huge quality of life issue, particularly for elderly people. If they fear they can't go out at night, that is not on,” he added.

“There are three or four youngsters who feel they can get away with blue murder and then others will see what happens and think 'If they can do that, then I can do that' - they are like rotten apples.”

Mr Jowers called for anti-social behaviour orders to be made on troublesome youths to tackle the problem and put more responsibility on their parents.

“The police have been great, but they are overstretched and, of course, their priority is serious crime, but our view is if you leave the blighters alone, they will turn into seriously troublesome adults,” he added.

Pc Lawrie Parker, who is stationed on Mersea, said the problem had not yet been significant this summer, but added in the past people had broken into beach huts and used them as a venue for drinking.

“It is low-level public disorder behaviour and it is a problem affecting the whole of West Mersea,” he added.

“The police, parish councillors, borough councillors and, hopefully, youth workers will all be coming together on this to see what we can do to stop the behaviour.”

Vick Swan, United Solutions co-ordinator for Essex Police, said there was a need for both short and long-term issues to be addressed at next week's meeting.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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