County Durham’s most senior policeman has visited residents plagued by the anti-social actions of a gang of 40 youths. Duncan Leatherdale hears how peace has returned and how for some, it had never gone away.
FOR the past three nights residents of the Low Mown Meadows estate in Crook say they have enjoyed some peace.
For some of the estate’s 700 or so households, it was a welcome relief from several weeks of anguish caused by a gang aged between 11 and 18.
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The problems did not affect everyone however, and Temporary Chief Constable of Durham Police Mike Barton said while some had suffered significant disruption and distress, their neighbours seemed to have been untouched.
The epicentre of the problems seems to have been an electricity substation in the centre of the estate which Mr Barton described as “classic territory where children get together”.
From here they hurled mud at windows, verbally abused residents and passersby and generally created an air of intimidation and anger for those in the vicinity.
A grandmother whose garden backs on to the station said her life has been blighted by the problems, and The Northern Echo earlier reported on teenager Kimberley Hansom who has also suffered.
But the older woman said the last three nights have been quiet, due in no small part to the extra police presence.
She said: “The police have been brilliant, I have seen them all over the place and it is very reassuring to have them here.”
Mr Barton said officers have now identified the ring leaders, the “small group who are really badly behaved who the rest follow like sheep”.
They and their families are being spoken to and any further “unacceptable behaviour” will not be tolerated.
Having enjoyed a portion of chips from the estate’s fish and chip shop and spent two hours walking the streets, Mr Barton said he was very impressed with Low Mown Meadows.
His officers will work with Durham County Council and other groups to provide more activities for young people in the area and solutions to the substation problem will be sought.
The police chief said: “This is a really well kept, close knit estate with one or two problems which are now being dealt with.”
Residents are also working with police to allocate the priorities for the neighbourhood policing team.
Yet for other residents, they had no issue at all, and mother of-three Barbara Carr, who lives on Sycamore Gardens, said she feared the complaints would drive good, honest residents away.
She said: “Then it really would become an estate with troubles.”
Whether residents suffered or not, they all seem to agree that the majority of the troublemakers came from outside the estate.
Ms Carr said: “I could name you many children who live on the estate who are well behaved and care for the community.
“This is a very nice place to live and I wouldn’t be a better parent if I lived on a different estate, my morals would still be the same.”