Fears of ‘vigilante groups’ being formed to tackle youth crime and disorder in Crowland have been raised by a parish councillor.
Police patrols have been stepped up in Crowland town centre at weekends after nine incidents of anti-social behaviour and two cases of criminal damage over the first 29 days in January.
I’m just annoyed that we’re going round in circles, just wasting everyone’s time while the problems just escalate and escalateCoun Geoff Quince, Crowland Parish Council
But there is growing frustration among police and parish councillors which came to a head when two residents wrote to them claiming to have been subjected to victimisation from gangs of youths in the town for more than four years.
The residents, who the Spalding Guardian is not naming for fear of reprisals, also claimed that they had suffered a total of five broken windows costing more than £400, CCTV damage of about £400 and car vandalism to the value of about £160.
During Monday’s parish council meeting, PCSO Sally Pusey said: “Since January 29, we’ve had a few problems where windows were broken and so lots of police officers have been in Crowland every night.
“We’ve also been doing reassurance visits to the two victims (who wrote to the parish council) and although we’ve not yet identified those who committed the anti-social behaviour offences, they are happy with what we’re doing.
“We’re trying to get a grip of the problem, but the victims have sent in a complaint to the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC Marc Jones).
“My frustration is that the problems are happening at different times and this is why we can’t get a real hold of it.”
Despite meetings between parish councillors, South Holland District Council and the police, youth crime has continued to be a problem in Crowland, even after a visit by the PCC last August.
Coun Geoff Quince said: “Crowland is a small community and there’s a relatively small number of youths who fit this bill of trouble-making.
“We have schemes (Community Speedwatch) where people can stand on the side of the road with speed cameras and I’m starting to hear people talking about vigilante groups.
“We really don’t want to go down that road but I’m just annoyed that we’re going round in circles, just wasting everyone’s time while the problems just escalate and escalate.
“It’s not too far beyond our imagination that something tragic is going to happen because what we’re doing isn’t enough.
“Then what do we do?”
PCSO Pusey said: “We would discourage any vigilante groups from going out and doing anything because we’re responsible for doing something about the anti-social behaviour and criminal damage being caused.
“One person was given a court injunction and it did have an effect while they were on it.
“We’re doing our best but unless we can identify the youths causing anti-social behaviour, we can’t do anything.”
Inspector Gareth Boxall, neighbourhood policing inspector for South Holland, said: “We continue to recognise the ongoing problems with anti-social behaviour in Crowland and we are working hard with our partners, including South Holland District Council, to address these issues.
“We investigate all criminal offences reported to us and take action where offenders are identified.
“Where we cannot prosecute for a criminal offence, we take action through our anti-social behaviour procedures.
“Against a backdrop of finite police resources in South Holland, we have increased patrols in Crowland and will increase those patrols again during the school holidays.
“Most of those involved are juveniles and whilst most parents have been supportive to our intervention, we have spoken to a number of parents who think their children are just ‘messing about’.
“Even where a criminal offence might not have occurred, this ‘messing about’ in groups is causing real misery to people’s lives.
“My message to parents is know where your children are and what they are doing because if we come knocking on your door, it is for a reason.
“However, we want to work with parents to keep their children on the straight and narrow.”