Residents have countered claims that anti-social behaviour is decreasing in a County Durham town, as incidents of criminal damage continue to leave people fearing for their safety. 

Residents in Crook have previously told of pensioners being scared to leave their homes due to smashed bus shelters and buses being targeted by rocks and bricks. Such incidents have caused unrest locally and the police and council stepped in to protect residents and identify those responsible. 

Independent councillor Anne Reed believes the rise in incidents over the last two years was due to the relaxing of lockdown restrictions in the area and were perhaps blown out of proportion. In a bid to make the area safer, the police joined forces with parents last year to launch Operation Habu, which saw patrolling officers texting parents of young people who were acting in an antisocial manner, warning them of their behaviour. 

Read more: Police pledge to punish criminals of anti-social behaviour in Crook

Cllr Reed says this has helped cut down on crime and praised the joint approach, with officers and parents working in tandem. “We’re living in a time where we have to deal with young people in that way,” Cllr Reed said.

“Things have changed so much, and I know the police have had their share of complaints about how they handle things, but we don’t want to criminalise young people.”

The Northern Echo: Glenholme Park, where people say youths on off-road bikes are constantly disrupting residentsGlenholme Park, where people say youths on off-road bikes are constantly disrupting residents (Image: Sarah Caldecott)

But locals aren’t as positive. Wardens have been tasked with patrolling Glenholme Park - a crime hotspot near the police station - on weeknights. Residents have reported a rise in off-road bikes frequenting the area, causing a nuisance to nearby homes.

One resident explained: “The dirt bikes riding round every night are a huge nuisance as well as a danger to others using the park for its original purpose. I really feel for those poor residents and staff in the Parklands nursing home who have to endure it literally on their doorstep.”

On Friday, Paul Reay, from Sunderland, was jailed for seven and a half years after setting fire to 10 cars in two streets overnight in February. 

The Northern Echo: The public toilets in Crook town centre have been damaged by a fire twiceThe public toilets in Crook town centre have been damaged by a fire twice (Image: Sarah Caldecott)

Another place where crowds often gather is the public toilets in the Market Place, which has been hit by fires in the past. Ryan Bradley fears his own and other people's concerns often fall on deaf ears, and progress has hit a brick wall.

“Over the last year we have had major problems with criminal damage, animal cruelty, theft, motorbikes and quads riding around the town dangerously, kids throwing stones and eggs, and setting fires,” said Ryan.  

“My own experience of 101 is extended wait times and empty promises of someone will be out to see or check on what's been reported.”

Police say two bikes being ridden illegally have been seized in Crook alone in the last few weeks alone and three teenagers are currently going to court charged with driving offences.

For Cllr Reed, she says funding is needed to get more officers on the streets. “What I also feel is missing is what we used to have years ago - youth workers. They would put events on in the community, from sports to competitions.”

Her concerns are echoed by neighbours who say more youth clubs would help keep kids off the streets causing trouble. The lack of facilities available has led to a worrying trend in teenagers getting involved in county lines and drug dealing, cllr Reed warned. 

The Northern Echo: Cllr Anne Reed in Crook town centre Cllr Anne Reed in Crook town centre (Image: The Northern Echo)

Calls for CCTV throughout the town continue to be repeated, but others think it is too reactive, and more needs to be done to engage with the community.

“What the area does not need is another photo opportunity saying they know all about the problems and promising jam tomorrow - we need, and deserve, bread today to build the jam onto,” said another resident. 

But despite the apathy towards reporting crimes to the police - some residents say their concerns often aren’t heard - Cllr Reed said it remains the only way to cut crime.

She added: “We need to get that stigma away because it’s not always true. I’ve seen them out working, and they can’t be out everywhere. It’s vitally important that everyone reports anti-social behaviour. If it isn’t reported then how can it be dealt with? We’ve all got a duty of care to each other if we want Crook and the surrounding areas to be a better place. 

“I don’t think we’ll get rid of it all but things have improved since 2021 with what the police and council have done, and of course the help from the community.”

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Durham police say nuisance anti-social behaviour in Crook has fallen by 50 per cent. The figures, compared with the same three-month period from last year, is down to several problem-solving initiatives from the Neighbourhood Policing Team who are supported by Response officers, based at Crook Police Station 24/7.

Sergeant Grant Cockerill praised parents for their help in combating the problem. “Parents and guardians have been amazing in this process and are often just normal people who are mortified when we contact them to say their child is involved in anti-social behaviour,” he said. “Most of the time the youngsters are quickly collected and dealt with by the parents who are often more effective at getting the message across.”

Joanne Waller, Durham County Council’s head of community protection, said: “We’re committed to working in partnership across all of our communities to tackle anti-social behaviour and have been supporting Durham Constabulary’s operation in Crook. It’s good to see that the efforts of all involved are having a positive impact but we’re not complacent and will continue to work with partners to make sure our communities feel safe and supported.”