A POLICE chief commandeered golf buggies to round up a gang of suspected teenage tearaways after a dramatic chase – minutes after launching a campaign aimed at cracking down on criminal damage.

The nine youths who were suspected of barricading the Sustrans cycle way in Stanley, County Durham, with broken branches, were detained on a golf fairway after officers waded through a river to flush them out of their hiding places in woodland undergrowth.

With no easy way to reach the rounded-up fugitives, Superintendent Kerrin Smith and beat sergeant Dave Clarke received quick lessons in operating the club’s golf buggies, before shepherding them to waiting patrol cars.

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Supt Smith, along with a contingent of police officers, neighbourhood wardens and PCSO’s sprang into action after launching Durham Constabulary’s Respect Your Street campaign, at Stanley police station, on Tuesday evening.

They received reports of youths breaking down branches and using them to barricade the busy national C2C cycle route and throwing items from a bridge at passers-by.

Police were on the scene within minutes and set off in pursuit, with neighbourhood warden Paul Rutherford hot on their heels.

The youths went to ground in woods near the Beamish Hall Golf Club , but were spotted taking cover by Stanley’s new neighbourhood Inspector Kelly Martin.

PCSO’s John Bastow and Steve Wilkinson waded across a river to reach the youths, while others ran across the golf course to help.

Sgt Clarke said: “We had to take quick lessons in buggy riding in order to get to the youths.

“This shows the lengths we will go to track down the kids who cause problems in the community and who are causing anti-social behaviour.

“They are aged 12 to 15 and are the kids who are causing the majority of problems in the area. We are glad we have caught them today.”

Insp Martin said: “This demonstrates good team work between neighbourhood wardens, PCSOs and officers.

“Officers in my team knew the identities of number of them, including one who is a bit of ringleader and has been brought in before and interviewed in relation to a number of offences.

“He is currently working with ourselves and the youth engagement service to keep him out of trouble.

“The youths’ were brought back to the police station and their parents were contacted collect their children from the police station, which they did.

“Sgt Clarke spoke to the parents about the Respect Your Street initiative and the youths were made aware of the consequences of what they were doing.”

She added: “We had a good conversation with the ringleader. He was quite confrontational at first, but apologised by end of it. This is about building bridges rather than alienating the youths. "

Police were accompanied during the operation by victims of anti-social behaviour, as well as by members of Stanley Town Council.

  •  Durham Constabulary has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the effect and consequences of criminal damage within its communities.

The Respect Your Street campaign  will run throughout the summer and aims to educate offenders how their actions impact on victims.

It will highlight that as well as the usual action taken against offenders, such as being taken to court, other actions will also be considered.

These include working with social housing providers and other agencies to address issues - which could mean the offender's housing tenancy or benefits could be affected.

Officers will also look at using “restorative approaches” which help people understand the impact their actions have on people’s lives.

Superintendent Kerrin Smith, who is co-ordinating the campaign, said: “The campaign is intended to reach out to offenders and potential offenders and bring home the impact of their offending behaviour on both the victim and the communities in which they live.

“County Durham and Darlington remain as some of the safest and welcoming communities to live in and our intention is to take positive action and encourage partnership working to ensure that this remains the case.

“Nobody wants to live in an awful place and some of the mindless damage to things like bus shelters and scratching a car do matter to people.

“We want those who commit such crimes to take a real hard look at what they are doing and the impact this has on their friends, neighbours and family.”

Posters will appear on social media along with the hashtag #respectyourstreet as well as being displayed around town centres, schools and public buildings.

As well as the publicity campaign there will also be increased patrols, town centre curfews, weeks of action, visits to schools and a video which will be shown to pupils in the run up to the summer holidays.

‘Supt Smith said: “People who commit criminal damage will not only receive a criminal record but can expect an £80 fixed penalty notice or even a custodial sentence.”