Police chief plays down town crime fears

By Richard SmithA POLICE inspector has reassured residents of a market town that they were not being plagued by gang warfare.Inspector Terry Byford, of Woodbridge police, played down fears expressed by councillors that gangs from neighbouring villages were congregating in the town and were responsible for a spate of vandalism and graffiti.

By Richard Smith

A POLICE inspector has reassured residents of a market town that they were not being plagued by gang warfare.

Inspector Terry Byford, of Woodbridge police, played down fears expressed by councillors that gangs from neighbouring villages were congregating in the town and were responsible for a spate of vandalism and graffiti.

She said the majority of young people were not troublesome and were disappointed at being inaccurately labelled as “troublemakers”.


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Insp Byford added: “I have not seen any evidence of gangs and there is no inter-group rivalry - they are just young people. The young people I have met are very nice and they are concerned that they are being labelled as troublemakers.

“When a recent anti-social behaviour order was put forward, people did not think we would get it or that it would be enforced - but the courts responded positively in supporting Woodbridge and the offender was jailed for four months.

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“This was an excellent result for the town and it did make young people realise what could happen to them.”

There is growing concern in Woodbridge over the amount of binge drinking taking place with teenagers becoming drunk on vodka and other spirits.

Insp Byford warned: “We are working with schools on this. If the young people are left in a drunken state by their friends, then there are personal safety and health issues surrounding that.”

An action plan is being drawn up with input from shopkeepers, youth groups, community education workers, leisure staff and the town centre manager to stamp out crime, particularly vandalism.

One possible initiative is to bring in a dispersal order for certain areas, which would give police powers to ask people to move on.

But Insp Byford said she would prefer to target known troublemakers rather than introduce a blanket ban that could make young people feel excluded from their own town.

An alcohol ban is to be introduced during the summer covering many roads, parks, river walks, churchyards and other places. People will be fined if they refuse an order from an officer to stop drinking alcohol.

Residents and town councillors have complained vociferously in recent months about crime, but Insp Byford said Woodbridge had a low rate of criminal offences and a quality of life that was envied by many other towns.

“Woodbridge is a very safe place and I think that the town working together can keep it that way,” she added.

richard.smith@eadt.co.uk

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