REIGN OF TERROR: Thugs as young as 11 hurl fireworks at police

Inspector Paul McLernon
Inspector Paul McLernon
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Police have blasted a group of youths who are “ruining people’s lives” with their reign of terror around a Preston park.

Officers have been attacked with fireworks and punched trying to control the gang behind a crime spree in Waverley Park.

They are also engaging in criminal behaviour, stealing motorbikes and such like. We have been targeting them for a few months.

Insp Paul McLernon

Police have now stepped up the fight against anti-social behaviour in Ribbleton following the latest incident, when 10 children – some as young as 11 – were served with a dispersal notice barring them from the area.

Insp Paul McLernon, of Preston Police, said efforts to control the yobs have so far failed, leaving no option but to “criminalise” them.

He said: “If somebody doesn’t comply with a dispersal notice, they will be arrested.

“We dealt with a 15-year-old last week who failed to comply. He has been arrested and bailed to appear at court.”

He said the youths were all known to police, who are in the process of getting criminal behaviour orders (CBO) issued against them by the courts. CBOs ban offenders from carrying out activities named in the orders.

But the inspector urged members of the public to come forward and provide the evidence they need.

Insp McLernon added: “It is a group of children causing anti-social behaviour in the park, throwing stones at cars and generally abusing members of the public.

“They are also engaging in criminal behaviour, stealing motorbikes and such like. We have been targeting them for a few months.

“If they are there to have fun then great but they have shown themselves incapable of doing that and are carrying on in a way that is ruining people’s lives.”

Police issued a dispersal authority for the area around the park on Monday night following the recent trouble. Failure to comply with the order, which stretches from Ribbleton Lane down to Nevett Street, is a criminal offence.

During the nine hours it was in force, five girls and five boys, aged 11 to 17, were issued with dispersal notices and one boy was taken back to his family to prevent him breaching his bail conditions.

It comes after two female officers were punched trying to arrest two people for anti-social behaviour last week.

At the weekend, officers were targeted with fireworks in Ingol, Callon and Ribbleton.

Insp McClernon added: “It is our job – we do expect a certain level of behaviour but not fireworks, which are obviously high temperature and can cause serious burns.

“At the end of the day, the parents are responsible for them.

“We will be arresting people because it has got to that point. We have tried early intervention but unfortunately there is only one other option, which is to criminalise them.”

He warned further dispersal orders will be granted “on a regular basis” if required to keep the area safe.

The move has been largely welcomed by residents, who complained the area has become unsafe in recent months.

One mum wrote on Facebook: “I just cannot understand the lack of respect for the police nowadays. Parents should be ashamed if it’s their kids.”

Another added added: “That sort of behaviour is out of order. They should respect our police.”

While some people questioned whether the orders will have the desired effect, others said they are needed in other Preston neighbourhoods too.

Anyone who has witnessed anti-social behaviour can report it in confidence to police by calling 101.

Statements can be provided anonymously if necessary and there is no need to go to court.