New crackdown on anti-social behaviour

By David Lennard, Sarah Chambers and Dave GooderhamTHE Government has been urged to remember the problems of small towns and rural areas when it unveils a crackdown on anti-social behaviour.

By David Lennard, Sarah Chambers and Dave Gooderham

THE Government has been urged to remember the problems of small towns and rural areas when it unveils a crackdown on anti-social behaviour.

New measures aimed at helping police forces and councils deal with a range of anti-social issues - including vandalism, litter dropping and noise pollution - are expected to be announced this morning.

It is hoped the Government will also announce new finance packages so a number of projects aimed at combating the problem can go ahead.

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Colin Parmenter, chairman of Glemsford Parish Council, called for the Government to hand out tougher punishment for young offenders.

“When youngsters get caught, we need to start looking at the punishments they are receiving,” he said.

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“They are not a big enough deterrent - and they need to be more severe. The courts usually say they are under age or it is their first offence, but we need to have stricter controls and harder punishments.”

Glemsford Parish Council has employed private security guards to combat a spate of anti-social behaviour in the village.

“I think the only thing the Government can do to combat the overall problem is to put more bobbies on the beat,” said Mr Parmenter.

“We are getting extra beat officers, but they have so many villages to cover and they are so thinly spread.”

Pc Robbie Abraham, the community police officer in Framlingham, is at the cutting edge of the policy towards anti-social behaviour.

He has spearheaded what is proving to be a successful Friday night “youth café” pilot scheme at the Granary in the town's Church Street. The aim has been to give youngsters a safe, secure environment to meet and socialise.

Pc Abraham said it was too early to say what impact it was having on anti-social problems in the town, but added they have noticed the amount of alcohol confiscated from under-age drinkers had decreased.

“I would seriously like the Government to fund and staff places for young people to meet, I think there's a big gap,” he said.

Mr Abraham also hoped the new anti-social policy will allow him to deal with first-time offenders, particularly juveniles, at a local level.

“Putting them in a custody environment I don't feel is always the best way to deal with them,” he said.

“What I would like to do is to deal with them in front of their parents and to get the parents and the juveniles to accept responsibility, for example, for damage and make them aware of how much they do upset the victim.”

He would also like to be able to deal with adults drinking in the streets in the same way as juveniles, with discretionary powers to stop them.

Halesworth Town Council vice-chairman, Alan Holzer, chaired a public meeting in August aimed at coping with anti-social behaviour in the town.

“It was clear from the meeting that a lot of people in the town felt that their quality of life is being affected by anti-social behaviour of one kind or another,” he said.

“There is a problem here and only today I have been clearing litter from public areas that include broken glass.”

Mr Holzer added: “In the past we have seen the Government announcing new projects in the inner city areas where the problem of anti-social behaviour is more obvious.

“But in small towns, such as Halesworth and Aldeburgh, the problem affects the quality of life of residents and needs addressing.”

There are a number of projects in the area aimed at encouraging the public to work closely with the police and councils to improve the situation.

“These projects are under way and will make a difference, especially if they receive the financial backing from the Government,” said Mr Holzer.

“It will be a great pity if small towns and rural areas miss out on the backing they deserve.”

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