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Saturday, 20 September 2014

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New efforts to stamp out yob culture in north Cumbrian town

A new alliance is being forged to tackle trouble amid growing concerns about vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

Anita Owen photo
PC Anita Owen

Frustrations about bad behaviour in Longtown have been heightened by an attack on the town’s primary school that caused thousands of pounds of damage.

But community leaders this week said that problems have been building over the past year – and have been critical of police efforts to deal with them.

Police, however, say they are taking steps to stamp out problems, with a new group seen as an important start to reaching the root of the issues.

Among their aims will be securing more activities for young people in Longtown to better occupy teenagers and reduce the risk of them being tempted into vandalism or other trouble.

Police community support officers will also be deployed to Longtown most days to quell concerns and deal with any early signs of anti-social behaviour.

Efforts being taken to tackle trouble were outlined to parish councillors by PC Anita Owen, problem solver for the Brampton Neighbourhood Policing Team, which covers the town.

She said a united front was essential. PC Owen added: “We need to sing from the same hymn sheet. Police can only do so much with regard to the offences that are happening.”

Longtown and Rockcliffe city councillor Ray Bloxham said the community could not rely entirely on police to deal with the issues.

He and PC Owen will be among the members of a new problem-solving group looking at how best to stamp out crime in the town. It will also include representatives of the parish and Cumbria County councils.

Parish councillors called for action to be taken.

Speaking after Monday’s meeting, PC Owen said: “Longtown has two dedicated PCSOs, Laura Woods and Mike Gilsenan. Laura took on the role in March this year and Mike joined the Longtown team a couple of months ago.

“They are working alongside police officers in the community to robustly address long-term issues.

“By setting up the problem- solving group, we are hoping that other agencies and members of the public will work together with police to solve some issues.

“This is not just a police problem, it is a community problem. By using a multi-agency approach we can begin to work together to tackle anti-social behaviour and criminal offences.”

Cumbria’s police and crime commissioner, Richard Rhodes, heard about the problems and saw for himself some of the key areas of concern.

Wooden benches were destroyed, slates ripped off a roof and a window smashed in the latest vandal attack at the primary school, over the August bank holiday weekend.

In July, yobs ripped lead from the roof, damaged a goalpost on the school’s football pitch and started a small fire on the multi-use games area (Muga), which is attached to the school. There was also a break-in at the building in April, with stolen equipment dumped near the banks of the River Esk.

The Pear Tree Nursery, which neighbours the school, off Mary Street, also had slates ripped off its roof.

Primary school governors plan to meet to discuss the issues.

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