Anti-social behaviour is stopping people going out and drove one person to sell his home, a meeting heard.

Yarm town councillors called a meeting to discuss the issue following reports of problems in Willey Flatts Park, where an 11-year-old girl was attacked by a gang of youths in April.

A neighbourhood police sergeant heard of calls to install CCTV in the area.

However the officer said they could not get to every call and other areas had more severe problems. He urged people to keep reporting incidents which were criminal or causing harassment, but to be realistic.

Councillor Pamela Smailes told of a man who lived in a bungalow near a cut where young people hung around shouting and screaming: “He sold his house. He was hounded out of his house really. It’s not right that people should have to sell their house.

“He couldn’t take it any more. He actually got thumped.

“It’s nastiness now. It’s just breaking things, breaking bottles on the path.

“They think that’s fun but it isn’t. People are actually frightened to go out.

“They’re going around in gangs. There was a lot of them sleeping on the field.”

Cllr Yvonne Pybus said: “The park’s been all pulled up again. The bus shelter’s been smashed again.

“We do really need the cameras. It must be cheaper to have the cameras up as to replace this all the time.

“We went past last night and there must have been 20 or 30 of them all sat there, but they weren’t the older kids. There were younger kids.

“We do get a lot from other areas. They’re not all from here.”

Sergeant Gary Cookland from the Stockton neighbourhood policing team said they covered a vast area, resources were still limited with officers being lost and taking time to train, and policing was led by intelligence from vital and underrated PCSOs: “You tell us where things are happening, we’ll then put our resources in those areas. It’s the only way we can police.

“We prepare our patrols around what figures come in. Mandale and Victoria is consistently top of the list for violent crime and anti-social behaviour. We’ve got areas of Billingham that are really high, Norton really high.”

He said there were 15 calls for anti-social behaviour in Yarm in May: “You’re probably almost trebling that score in Mandale, and you’re doubling it in Billingham. I’ve got to prioritise where I’m going to get the most impact.”

Cllr Smailes said: “I appreciate what you’re saying, but that doesn’t help us. We need cameras up here and we need some resources up here, we’ve got that much happening on this field and this surrounding area.

“We’ve had a girl attacked on the field. There’s a video of kids banging on doors. This is frightening people.

“If you see a gang of kids, you don’t tackle them. You’re frightened to do it.

“You’ve got motorbikes going around. That’s not a way I want to live. I came to Yarm because it’s a nice area.”

She said £600 had been raised towards a CCTV camera, and Sergeant Cookland said he would always support CCTV to deter crime, but added: “It’s not the answer. It doesn’t get rid of the problem.”

He said his team came to the area on a Bank Holiday weekend and found no issues: “But clearly there is a problem and I accept that. Equally on the balance of everywhere else I police, to be fair it is not high.

“I’ve got to be realistic. I will continue to try and do the best for everyone.

“I want people to report things, but I want people to be realistic with what they’re reporting. If you’ve got a problem that is causing anti-social behaviour or is causing you harassment and/or it’s a crime, let us know about it.

“I have no doubt that this is under-reported, but it’s the same everywhere.

“There’s a common misconception that a gang of kids will be causing trouble. Invariably they don’t. Most gangs will cause a bit of noise but they move on and they won’t cause any more issues.

“You get a small minority who will commit damage, threaten people, take drugs. If I see a gang of kids I’ll park up alongside them and have a bit of banter with them.

“We can’t just go motor up to someone and say ‘right, get lost’ if they’re not committing any offences. We don’t live in a dictatorship.”

He said he was happy to hold a crime prevention evening about measures like carrying personal attack alarms and putting keys in safe places: “If everyone does take crime prevention seriously then you will reduce crime. That is fact.”

The wide-ranging discussion included procedures for prioritising and triaging police jobs, society, culture, parenting, respect, political correctness, mental health, drugs, violent crime, housing, work in schools and air support.

Cllr Smailes said: “These people would like CCTV, at least so it monitors that field, because if that’s going to be a deterrent, that’ll be something. You get pictures, you’ve got evidence.

“We need to put our case forward for CCTV and we need to keep reporting everything that happens.”

The sergeant said he would take the concerns to a stakeholders’ meeting including councillors, school and the police and crime commissioner (PCC).