Discussion Forum
Trashing stuff in general

From Howard Holmes
Monday, 11 June 2007

School activity at Hebden Royd J & I School recently involved children in one year planting seeding potatoes in large pots for some real life learning on biology, potatoes and what makes the world go round. This morning they went to school to find that vandals had destroyed all their work and spread it around the play ground.

I guess they have unfortunately learnt a bit about what makes the world go round the wrong way. But no doubt the police will reasure everyone, once again, by shrugging their insistutional shoulders and telling us that we should just put it down to experience.

Don't overlook the report previously on Hebweb too (see News in brief), when Eaves Wood was set fire by vandals (and this was not the first attempt). I don't like to see panic amongst owls looking for toasted owlettes either, but this fire got contained in time. Assuming we are experiencing global warming (presumably equating to hotter, drier weather), we need to be vigilant before big acres, and the flora and fauna, potentially disappear in a puff of smoke too.

From Fran
Monday, 11 June 2007

Isn't it sad that the work of shoolchildren is destroyed like that?

We woke Saturday morning in Mytholmroyd to find our neighbours conifers had been dragged out of the ground and hurled on the street. Further down the road pots of plants appeared in people's gardens which didn't belong to them and garden furniture has disappeared.

From Graham Barker
Monday, 11 June 2007

Longer, hotter summers are probably going to mean more anti-social behaviour and vandalism. That’s not a happy thought. (As an aside, has anyone seen the astonishing amount of litter - mainly empty booze cans and bottles - round the skateboard park?)

It’s time the police were made to take all this much more seriously. At present their indifference - or perhaps that of their senior officers - compounds the problem, as the more regular culprits must know full well that nothing serious is ever likely to happen to them.

I’ve had two conversations about this with police officers in the past year and both left me utterly depressed. Neither officer was able to offer any positive solutions; it was just one long catalogue of what the police can’t or won’t do. In effect, an endless list of excuses for inaction. It was interesting that both officers trotted out remarkably similar answers; are they perhaps being coached in denial?

The reality is that unless some kind of Gordon Ramsay can give the police a collective kick up the backside and remotivate them, ‘our’ yobs will just become more numerous, more confident and more dangerous. If that sounds Daily Mail-ish, I’m no longer inclined to apologise for it.

All that said, the police can only provide emergency fixes. The two major ingredients of anti-social behaviour are useless parents and the too easy availability of booze. Unless the former can be made more accountable for their children’s behaviour and the latter restricted, nothing will improve.

From Oscar
Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Graham, not a bad synopsis. All you missed out was 'well it wasn't like that in my day?'.

What do you expect the police to do? Our jails are full, we should ask ourselves why this is the case. On May 25th 2007 (my latest figures) there were only 320 'spare' prison place in the entire country!

Fact: Nowhere in Western Europe jails more of its population than England and Wales! Why?

As a society we seriously need to look at cause and develop prevention initiatives rather than the 'cure' being legal action or detention.

The police in Hebden Bridge are fantastic! They do what they can with limited resources and often go beyond their defined remits. Why should you expect our police to offer positive solutions to our local society's failings?

The reality is that Hebden Bridge has sooner or later got to come to terms with years of failing to address inclusive issues. The results, as I've stated in another post, are self evident.

I'm appalled at your statement regarding 'useless parents'. You're obviously out of touch with real life situations. However, drink and drugs are a major problem. They are cheap, readily available and currently one of the few outlets available for our Young People.

Antisocial Behaviour is a highly subjective issue. If residents of Hebden Bridge are discriminating against a major element of its population based on provision, inclusion, preconceptions and age, then I consider this to be Antisocial Behaviour.

There is a quote (which is bordering on cliché) 'It takes a whole village to raise a child'. Pity the general 'liberal' Hebden Bridge attitude is one of prejudgement, presumption and prejudice.

From Andrew Hall
Tuesday, 12 June 2007

"Graham, not a bad synopsis. All you missed out was 'well it wasn't like that in my day?'."

Oscar, what an awfully patronising start. Graham's concerns are genuine and ones with which we all can identify.

"What do you expect the police to do? Our jails are full, we should ask ourselves why this is the case. On May 25th 2007 (my latest figures) there were only 320 'spare' prison place in the entire country!"

I don't think anyone is suggesting jail. I think Graham, along with the rest of us expect the police to respond to criminal acts of damage. I was always under the impression that the police were there to uphold the law.

"As a society we seriously need to look at cause and develop prevention initiatives rather than the 'cure' being legal action or detention."

Oh yes, we need, we need! But as simple citizens going about our respectable and lawful lives what are we supposed to do? The world is full of sociologists telling us what we 'need' to do. But they never get round to the practicalities of exactly how we do it.

"The police in Hebden Bridge are fantastic! They do what they can with limited resources and often go beyond their defined remits. Why should you expect our police to offer positive solutions to our local society's failings?"

Quite simply, the police are there to uphold the law. They are not there to pass judgement on the failings of society or offer solutions, and nobody expects that. What people do expect of the police is that, if there is criminal damage, they take action.

"The reality is that Hebden Bridge has sooner or later got to come to terms with years of failing to address inclusive issues. The results, as I've stated in another post, are self evident."

So what am I supposed to do, as a law abiding, concerned resident of Hebden Bridge? How can I personally stop the vandalism? I'd love to know.

"I'm appalled at your statement regarding 'useless parents'. You're obviously out of touch with real life situations. However, drink and drugs are a major problem. They are cheap, readily available and currently one of the few outlets available for our Young People."

I know parents who disassociate themselves from their children and do not care where they are or what they're doing. Many would like to regain control but don't know how. So in terms of reining in the excesses of their kids then yes, they are useless. Why? Because they don't do it!

"Antisocial Behaviour is a highly subjective issue. If residents of Hebden Bridge are discriminating against a major element of its population based on provision, inclusion, preconceptions and age, then I consider this to be Antisocial Behaviour."

I do wonder how many 30/40/50/60 year olds vandalise our town. I respectfully suggest it is the younger element who are to blame for most of our civic damage. If you know differently then I'd be interested.

"There is a quote (which is bordering on cliché) 'It takes a whole village to raise a child'. Pity the general 'liberal' Hebden Bridge attitude is one of prejudgement, presumption and prejudice"

I see vandalism all around our town, I know who's done it, I don't like it. I don't presume or prejudge. Vandalism is a criminal act. The police are there to uphold the law. It's as simple as that. If 'liberal' means we should not stand up to criminal acts, then heaven help us all.

From Ian M
Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Very well put Andrew. Just one point you forgot to mention. Prevention is better than cure. With a higher and more visible Police presence, perhaps the incidents which are being discussed might not have occured in the first place!

From Tim N
Wednesday, 13 June 2007

It seems that we have to decide if we want young people misbehaving to be dealt with by
a) the police and the criminal justice system or
b) the community and youth provision in general.

Its up to us really - do we want more resources to go to the Police and end up with more of our youngsters with criminal records. Or do we want resources to go to youth workers etc.

Make your mind up and get lobbying!

From Joseph
Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Well put Andrew. I see no reason why I can't be a fluffy liberal and object to Charlotte puking on my steps at 1am having woken both my children. And no I don't want her locked up, but I'd like her parents to know where she was and for her to appreciate that its probably not on.

From Oscar
Thursday, 14 June 2007

Andrew (et al),

It appears we are poles apart in our opinions and perceptions.

What I would suggest it that you attend the regular Police Ward meetings. You can talk to the police, councillors, and other attending organisations. You will hear how they work, what they are doing and what initiatives are in place.

You will have the opportunity to ask questions and also, discover how you can contribute.

I hope this helps… I really hope this helps…

From Ian M
Thursday, 14 June 2007

We don't want initiatives in place. We don't want touchy feely, don't offend anyone policing. What we do want is Police on the streets walking around and clipping these people around the ear.

Whilst watching a TV program a couple of nights ago, an officer who was called to a warehouse yard where some children were being a nuisance and damaging pallets, made them spend thirty minutes tidying up the mess they had made, he then gave them a lecture, took their names and wrote to their parents.

This is what we want - effective on the spot policing, not meetings and strategies!

From Jonathan Timbers
Thursday, 14 June 2007

Whilst I share the sorrow over vandalism, particularly at Hebden Royd, and the general desire to club drunken, whining, anti-social young males into submission, I do not for a single second think that my anger is a rational basis for understanding and sorting out the developing problem in Hebden Bridge.

There is now in Hebden Bridge a much greater police presence than 10 years ago. I find it quite striking, but the town still seems to be invaded by chavs, rolling around like Flash Harry.

There are reasons why teenagers are acting as they do, but I don't really understand them, so it boils down to two things IMHO

1) More park attendants, caretakers etc. who can keep an eye on public property and challenge trespassers (and swift police response if they get into difficulties)

2) trying to develop a dialogue with young people, including the many lovely ones we never notice or talk about. In other words, as Oscar put it,
As a society we seriously need to look at cause and develop prevention initiatives rather than the 'cure' being legal action or detention.....The reality is that Hebden Bridge has sooner or later got to come to terms with years of failing to address inclusive issues.

Hebden Bridge does have some social problems, not least exclusion on the basis of class, as well as, I would guess, a fairly large number of young people hurt by family breakups and inconsistent parenting (consistent parenting is, of course, more easily talked about than done). There are also drug and alcohol issues which affect many of us and we are seeing reflected back at us by the current crop of teenagers.

I salute Oscar for his efforts, but I would like to know more from him about the root causes of social exclusion in HB and understand the 'narrative' of young people's lives a little more than I currently do. To do that, I recognise that I have to put my middle-aged anger to one side, listen and think.

From From Cllr Joanna Beacroft Mitchell
Friday, 15 June 2007

Nobody seems to have recognised the role that we as ordinary members of the community have to play in this issue. Acceptable social behaviour is not genetically inherited - it must be learned, and children learn best by example. Do we as adults take enough responsibility for teaching all young people what we expect from them?

Yes parents need to take care of their children, but it is not in the interests of either parents or children that they should have to be under constant parental (or even adult) supervision.

The whole community has a role to play in supervising and educating children in what is acceptable behaviour.

When I see young people dropping litter in the street I go up to them and politely ask them why they have done this and ask them to pick up their mess - the reaction is usually positive; even the most intimidating hoodies turn into apologetic and usually very shy individuals when politely embarrased by a 5 foot nothing stranger in front of their peers.

A few weeks ago, while away at my inlaws house we came across a group of young lads on school grounds where they had obviously climbed a fence to gain access - we called them over and asked them if they had permission to be there and they admitted they did not and sloped off back to the park (we watched them go and the whole thing took less than 5 minutes). They probably came back later, but the point is that if every adult they encountered acted in the same polite but firm way these young people would soon become aware that they were being supervised and that everyone had high expectations of them, and they would learn from the whole community what was acceptable.

There seems to be a lot of 'not my problem' and blaming everyone else - as adults, if we don't act when we see wrong doing what kind of an example is that setting ? How can children and young people learn what is right if nobody tells them ?

The argument goes that Children and Young People are somehow more 'dangerous' these days and we as citizens fear for our safety. As I say, this is not my experience. If we as adults stay calm and polite, and insist on the same in return most Young people will respond.

As for the police they have a role to play, but do not have the resources to put a bobby on every street corner, and police are not psychic.

I would ask those people who have seen/heard more serious anti social activity - did you call the none emergency number and inform the police of what was going on? If not, how are the police supposed to know where to look? The police may not always respond to every call out but every report is logged and if a pattern begins to build up in a certain area then resources are sent to that area. this cannot happen unless we as individuals pass on what we know.

At the risk of repeating that cliche again - It does take a village to raise a child and we need to look very close to home to start finding the solutions.

From Ian M
Saturday, 16 June 2007

In response to your query that "have people used the non emergency number to inform the Police of a problem in their area", I draw your attention to a mass brawl In Todmorden a couple of weeks ago between somewhere in the region of forty youths wielding a variety of weapons. From the first report of this incident to the Police, it took Twenty minutes for the first officers to arrive on scene - TWENTY MINUTES! Why the capitals you ask - because this all took place no more than fifty feet away from Todmorden Police station.

Also I'm sorry Cllr you do not inhabit the same world as the rest of us if you think asking a group of teenagers to pick their litter up will be met by a polite "sorry"
I am young fit 6 feet tall 16 stone man who has had "children" screaming in my face "what are you going to do" when I have made requests like this in the past.
The question is a valid one - the answer is there is nothing I can do and you they know that.

There is more chance of the police responding to an accusation of assault by one of these "children" than them ever doing anything to clean up our towns

From Tim N
Saturday, 16 June 2007

Ian, you did right challenging inacceptable behaviour. Sometimes you get an aggressive response as you describe. I find it is always worth being prepared for this response - when it comes just walk away.

It may not have an immidiate effect but the cumulative affect of being challenged will eventually get through and behaviour will change with time.

The fact that the individuals react they way they do means they realise their behaviour is not good.

Social pressure is a powerful force - keep it up.

From Richard Dalby
Saturday, 16 June 2007

The local Police are incredibly under-staffed. I have a shop in Todmorden and recently someone attempted to break in. I was told that due to shift rotas, there is only one policeman on duty in Todmorden Friday or Saturdays - on alternate weekends. Every other week there is no cover at all.

I also know of someone who was seriously physically attacked by a person with an ASBO - the police turned up two days later and just said that if it happens again to "report it again", even though they knew the exact culprit. In fact, I could go on and list dozens of similar incidents in Todmorden that I'm aware of.

We are being seriously let down by the Police who are there to protect us.

When is the Police Ward meeting Oscar mentioned? It'd be interesting to go along and see what they plan to do to improve life for our communities.

From Andi M
Sunday, 17 June 2007

Saturday night's excesses have left Hebden Bridge this morning with 2 shattered bus shelters and a smashed up phone box.

It saddens me to see such deliberate destruction.

From Andrew Hall
Sunday, 17 June 2007

Yes Andi, I saw all the damage to the bus shelters in Hebden. Such damage must have taken some time and almost certainly someone witnessed it. But sadly any witnesses would probably have thought along the same lines as many of us - "What's the point of reporting it? You'll be given a 'crime number' and that's it. No more will be done".

And yes Richard, I've been involved in 'community meetings' about antisocial behaviour. They're always full of well-intentioned people who tell us we 'need' to do this and that. In particular, we 'need' to communicate and engage with our young people. So often, this ends up as an embarrassing exercise, with overweight, middle aged people trying to be 'cool', by attempting to wear trendy clothing and baseball caps (worn, of course, the wrong way round), going down to spots where the kids hang out, and saying things like 'Yo, dude, I is from da ghetto and you is my mate!'

The thing is quite simply that adolescents always have, and always will rebel. That's almost what they're there for! They're probably no worse now than they were 50 years ago, and they'll almost certainly be the same in another 50 years. If you look around you, you'll see evidence of a previous generation's vandalism. Names have been carved in trees, or chiselled out of rocks. Stones have been taken out of dry stone walls and rolled into becks. A good friend of mine, who sadly died recently, told me that the kids from Heptonstall had an ongoing feud with the kids from Eaves. One of the ploys of the Heptonstall lot was to get an old inner tyre tube from a lorry, tie it between two trees, and launch house bricks - catapult style - into the valley below. Another friend tells me how they used to stuff newspapers up cast iron drain pipes, and light them - the result being that the drainpipe would shatter and have to be replaced. Perhaps it's just that we're more aware of the misdemeanours of our youth than previous generations have been.

Tim N is spot on when he says "It seems that we have to decide if we want young people misbehaving to be dealt with by
a) the police and the criminal justice system or
b) the community and youth provision in general."

The only trouble is that the former are denied the resources needed to implement a zero tolerance approach to antisocial behaviour, and the latter have always demonstrated that they are as much use as a chocolate fireguard.

From From Cllr Joanna Beacroft Mitchell
Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Ian, I am sorry to hear about the poor response from the police and in an instance such as this I would suggest you contact the police to ask why their service fell short - clearly this kind of response is unacceptable, however I would respectfully suggest that a near riot such as you describe might warrant a 999 call rather than a non emergency one.

I would also repeat that all calls are logged, the more calls an area logs the more likely they are to get greater resources so please do not be put off by this experience, the more we call the police the better response we will get.

As for the verbal abuse, I've had similar responses as well but frankly I'm an adult and kids showing off in front of their mates when they don't know any better doesn't shock or upset me. What upsets me is the fact that you probably experienced this reaction in front of other adults who walked on past without backing you up and pointing out to these children that their behaviour was unacceptable.

If we adults started ganging up and insisting on the behaviour we want (in an adult and polite way) children would learn.

From Anthony Rae
Wednesday, 20 June 2007

I attended a meeting last night organised by Calderdale Council's Safer Communities Partnership on the subject of antisocial behaviour (interestingly, I didn't see any Calderdale or town councillors there).

Although I was there for another reason, I was also thinking about the spate of vandalism being discussed on this website. And on the assumption that there is a strong association between these actions and excessive alcohol, I asked in the session about alcohol-related issues why in their strategy they had not included the control and enforcement of drinking in public.

Since there is already in place a 'designated public place order' covering Hebden Bridge (the exact boundaries of the area covered will be on a map somewhere), which allows a police officer to confiscate any alcohol being consumed in public spaces, you have to ask why such a power is not being used more effectively. To do this would require:

  • a discussion first with the Town Council and other community organisations, to agree an approach.

  • publicity beforehand in the Hebden Bridge Times and in other places that it is the intention of the police to enforce the DPPO.

  • followed after a short interval by actual enforcement in a reasonable but incremental way.

I suppose it's possible that there is no connection between the various acts of vandalism and under-age or excessive public drinking, so maybe the first thing to do is to establish the link.

Then there's also the question of available police resources to sustain the enforcement (discussed as well in this thread) but maybe that can also be discussed. After all, the issue does feature in our Local Area Agreement as a priority - Action SSC14 (1).

From Oscar
Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Anthony, I was at an Upper Valley Action Group meeting last year when the police announced they had these 'new' powers. Fortunately, they are discretionary. I have seen alcohol being taken off young people by police officers and the contents poured down the drain. The feedback from the young people I talk with is that they are aware of this, and word soon got round.

The main questions I asked at the UVAG was 'How do you control the boundaries?' 'Wont this just move the problem out of the town centre?' – Maybe, unfortunately, the cricket club are feeling the effects?

From Ian M
Wednesday, 20 June 2007

I am afraid you have missed my point entirely.

The numerous calls to the Police were made to the emergency 999 number. The response time was stated by Detective Inspector Mark McManus of Calderdale Police who seemed pleased by officers efforts.

The point I am making is this. If a gang fight, involving thirty to forty armed youths can only invoke a twenty minute response time. How long do we wait for a response to a smashed bush shelter?

We all know why the service fell short - There are no Police available in the Upper Valley to respond to incidents such as this. When you consider that the combined populations of Hebden and Todmorden is estimated to be twenty four thousand I find it remarkable that both Police stations shut at night and that the only response is from Halifax.

I would therefore respectfully request that you find out where the considerable contribution to the police budget from our council tax bill actually goes

From Jonathan Timbers
Friday, 22 June 2007

Ian M, with respect, I don't think you understand policing. Having been born into 'a police family' (Daddy was one of those rough tough 70's policemen with racist views), I can remember Dad saying that the best thing to do in a fight was to let people beat one another stupid, then step in and arrest them when they couldn't resist. Perhaps that's what West Yorkshire police were doing in Tod.

I can remember police calenders (saying a day things, remember them?), and year on year somewhere I used to read, 'Discretion is the better part of valour'. Very sensible.

3 other things I remember Dad saying,

'Never say sorry'

'Always kick a man when he's down'


'The Courts required certain evidence and we provided it'

From Ian M
Friday, 22 June 2007

Jonathan, having read your post I can't really see what point you are trying to make!

Are you suggesting that the Police were waiting in the wings until the crowd dispersed and then they went to help the young man who had been left lying in the road with serious head injuries (Check the Evening Courier archive for details).

As for the bus shelters, there will be a considerable cost to repairing the damage caused by the mindless idiots who smashed them up. Perhaps if there were Police around that cost could have been avoided.

I am afraid I do understand modern Policing. The approach is to remove officers from local areas by closing the local stations and react from centralised "super police stations". Crime prevention is no longer a priority - victim management is!

The main issue here is that with no Police at night or weekends, anybody wishing to commit a crime knows that they have a twenty minute window of opportunity before the Police arrive. To be frank that is ridiculous and not something we should be proud of or tolerate.

From Oscar
Saturday, 23 June 2007

Just a few points to tie up some frayed ends of this thread.


I maintain Antisocial behaviour is subjective. I have sat with young people in St Georges Square and heard the verbal abuse they receive (mainly from 50/60 year old women) for doing nothing other than congregating in groups. I have also been verbally abused myself for 'talking to these scum'. The young people assured me it wasn't personal as it happened on a daily basis. Now, that's AntiSocial!

Don't get hung up on the semantics of 'need' - 'need' (not want!) is the first step to resolution.

I like your idea of the middle aged, overweight, baseball cap wearing, 'Youff Worker'. Whilst you have the beginnings of a Little Britain or Harry Enfield Sketch this is far from the truth.

If, as you say, 'I see vandalism all around our town, I know who's done it' then give the names and addresses to the police. My point was do not judge the vast majority of well behaved young people on the behaviour of a significant minority - this is the 'liberal' attitude to which I was referring.


Thank you for agreeing 'prevention is better than cure'. The incident you describe obviously took some planning. For such a large group of people in dispute to come together in such a short time must have taken some planning, and must have some motive. You're obviously disappointed and frustrated with the police reaction. May I respectfully suggest you contact them directly, either in person at the ward meetings or via letter or email to the Police NPT. (see below).


You say 'It seems that we have to decide if we want young people misbehaving to be dealt with by
a) the police and the criminal justice system or b) the community and youth provision in general.'

I must disagree! Everybody and every person plays their part. There's a cohesive multiagency strategy which includes Police, Social Services, the Youth Offending Team, Safer Communities Partnership, etc…. The community must also play its part!


If you haven't read my reply to Elisa (a visitor to Finland who made some insightful comments) then please do. In brief 'The UK has been accused of failing its children, as it comes bottom of a league table for child well-being across 21 industrialised countries.' Full BBC and UNICEF report here.


I believe the local police do a fantastic job under very difficult circumstances. The Upper Calder Valley NPT (Neighbourhood Policing Team) Website is available here . It states the next Hebden Bridge Ward meeting is 16th August at the White Lion; Mythomroyd Sepetember 13th at the Community Centre and Todmorden is to be announced.

BeatCrime is a useful site to keep an eye on the different types of crime in the area you live and monitor police performance.

I do however, believe the police could be better at 'closing the circle'. When you report a crime you are given a crime number; you should be able to track this crime number via a website to its ultimate conclusion ie investigation, arrest, sentencing…


Unlike some, I would never call any person 'useless' just because they lack a skill or require assistance in a certain matter. I have met 5ft mothers who, understandably, can’t control their ketamine fuelled 6ft 16 year olds. Instead of criminalising these people, local support is available. Also ParentLinePlus - 'because they don't come with instructions' - has been credited as one of the best parent advice and support networks.


'It takes a whole village to raise a child'.

'Prevention is better than cure'

From Andrew Hall
Saturday, 23 June 2007

Oscar, I wish I could share your optimism. I can't. Yes of course antisocial behaviour is subjective, but only today a friend and I were walking along the canal towpath at about 12 noon, and were confronted by a group of  eight to ten youths who not only swore at us and threatened us, but physically assaulted my friend. They all had cans of lager, one carrying a whole case. They were making their way down towards the park. Had we retaliated, or said anything, there is no doubt we would have been set upon and probably ended up in the canal. Am I supposed to shrug this off and say it's not antisocial behaviour? Is such behaviour acceptable?

My friend, a visitor to the town, was visibly shaken by this event. You really do need to waken up to the reality of what's happening here.  

Your comment "If, as you say, 'I see vandalism all around our town, I know who's done it' then give the names and addresses to the police" Come on! Be sensible! Just as in the case above, I know who threatened and assaulted us - they were young men in the 15 - 18 age range tanked up with alcohol. Do you really expect me to ask them for their names and addresses? That you made the comment in the first place fills me with despair.    

I make no apologies for my previous cynicism with regard to using youth and community organisations and social workers to solve the problem of vandalism. OK, some of my comments verged on the 'Little Britain' side, but in a way the endless talking and meetings and discussion of what needs to be done really does deserve a bit of ridicule. Why? Because things are as bad as they ever were.  

I have never lived in a time when vandalism and antisocial behaviour were not widespread, Likewise I have never known a time when we have not understood that such behaviour is often fuelled by boredom, drink and drugs. We've known the problem and its causes for decades. And yet antisocial behaviour is still with us big time. Doesn't this slightly beg the question 'So how long do we have to wait before the sociological approach to dealing with vandalism actually works?'  

I'm not decrying or belittling the excellent work done by youth and community groups, I'm just saying that they appear to have little effect in the specific instance of vandalism and antisocial behaviour. Could this possibly be because,as you say, the vast majority of young people are decent law abiding individuals and that vandalism is committed by a tiny percentage, and then only spontaneously and fuelled by alcohol? 

How can we prevent the seemingly pleasant lad who's just broken up with his girlfriend and spent the night drowning his sorrows, from walking through the town and breaking the odd window? Or the group of youths whose high spirits and horseplay, fuelled by a beer or two too many, cross the boundary between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour?  

Ok, perhaps I'm out of touch as you, Oscar, think I am, but I'd have thought a greater police presence might deter a lot of people from committing crime, and enable us to apprehend those hell-bent on doing so.  

We currently seem to be obsessed with traffic control; uniformed wardens regularly patrol the streets showing no mercy to those who commit even the smallest of transgressions. I'd have thought antisocial behaviour and vandalism were far greater social evils than minor traffic offences. Instead of (or perhaps even as well as) traffic wardens patrolling the streets from 9 to 5, why don't we have community support officers patrolling from 6 until 2?. Yes, it would be expensive; yes, it wouldn't be revenue earning; but as far as I can see, unless we give the police more resources to combat antisocial behaviour, some of you will be sitting here in 50 years' time talking about the self same problem, and nothing will have changed.  

Or have I totally misread the situation? If so, I'd genuinely like to know where I've slipped up.  

From Richard Hull
Sunday, 24 June 2007

You and your friend have clearly had a very unpleasant experience, and you have my sympathies.

As I'm sure you realise, the group behaviour of young people in public is highly dependent on many variables - age, gender, ethnicity, size of group, time and day of the week, whether they live in the area or not, the presence of nearby observers, the weather, etc. Alcohol consumption is only one amongst a range of factors. If they are aged 12-15 then parents might be a factor and might not; but if they are over 15-16 then whatever parents do or do not do is far less influential.

Again, age is very significant for the ways in which young people respond to the presence of uniformed authority. But it is not at all a simple formula as it also depends on young people's perceptions of the chances of getting a custodial sentence in that particular area - young people develop their own experience and understanding of the sentencing record of local magistrates.

In other words, there is a very large difference in potential responses to:-

a) A group of young-ish men, 18-40, most of whom are in work, visiting Hebden Bridge on a Friday or Saturday from say, Halifax or anywhere considerably less advantaged than HB, who are intent on mainly getting pissed and behaving like prats all afternoon and evening in pleasant rural surroundings, before getting the last train back home. They are mostly street-wise in that their reaction to a passer-by will depend on the tiniest of glances, gestures, facial expressions. Usually, if you respect their aggressively-asserted space, they will leave you alone; but the wrong glance or facial expression or refusing to get out of their way will result in swift, concerted and very heavy reaction.

b) A mixed gender group of kids aged 12-16 sitting at top bench (George Square taxi-rank) on a sunny Tuesday evening, just hanging out because that's where one hangs out, talking loud, laughing, running around, often in the street, sometimes shouting, sometimes throwing things at each other - playing, in other words. There's a big enough group to deter more troublesome kids. As it's not Friday or the weekend they are more likely to live in Hebden Bridge or very nearby and go to school together at Calder High, and they haven't got alcohol.

c) A group of mixed gender and ages 12-20, milling around Spar and Crown St. on an early Friday evening, probably waiting for more mates to turn up; at least one will be 18 and able to buy alcohol; they'll probably shift to Memorial Gardens or Calder Holmes later on, and then back and forth to Crown St for more alcohol; chances are, many are from Mytholmroyd, Old Town, Luddenden; or alternatively from Todmorden and surroundings; they gather in Hebden quite regularly on Friday evenings; they despise most Hebden Bridge-ers; they may have an ongoing feud with another group; they aspire to be something like group (a) but they haven't the experience and street sense and will be less predictable.

It is group (c) that police have always and will forever find the most difficult to deal with, as they are the least predictable and the least controllable; they have every right to hang out in Hebden on a Friday night; the police have no answer to their contempt for Hebden. Time was when at least one or two local police officers actually lived around here, but that is no longer likely, and even less likely for Community Support Officers, who are paid considerably less.

I do think there are positive things we can do as a community about the behaviour of group (c). I know that a few good people spend much of their spare time trying to get to know group (c) better, and trying to very slowly alter their behaviour and attitudes. That's very difficult.
A more approachable task, for 'us' as a community (whatever that is), is to address the contempt for Hebden Bridge. How can we stop HB becoming a place which other people despise?

What sorts of things could be provided in and around Memorial Gardens / Crown St. / Calder Holmes that would be attractive and cool to under-18s whether local or not? Well, probably a space over which they had some control, with one or two staff who they respect, and sufficient resources to make it attractive (pool table, refreshments, good floor space, computers) - a youth club?

Oh wait, we used to have one of those but Calderdale closed it and it's becoming a flipping museum. Well, as always when Calderdale are crap we have to do it ourselves. Any ideas, apart from turning Hebden into a gated community?

From Jonathan Timbers
Sunday, 24 June 2007

My point is Ian, that the police are not superheroes who can with their x-ray eyes see when every bus stop is being vandalised and swoop in on the perpretrators. Nor are they all like James Bond, capable of winning every fight. Sometimes you just have to step back and let people knock one another around, then intervene when you have enough strength to win. I think 20 minutes is pretty good response time to a riot of those proportions. You wouldn't find me running into a situation like that without considerable amount of planning and logistical support.

Of course in the old days they could identify villains and get them inside for one thing or another, whether they did it or not. Unfortunately, that lead to a number of miscarriages of justice, PACE and the restriction of police discretion (on the grounds that it was being abused). So its difficult to restrain the people who need restraining ...

Be good if people thought about what the police can do realistically - rather than demanding that they solve deep-rooted social problems by standing on every street corner.

Sorry to hear about Andrew's experiences. The last time I was attacked in Hebden Bridge was on Market St in 1998, during the heroin epedemic, the same week as a woman got raped in her own home in Heptonstall by one of the same gits who attacked me. FYI, I was saved by some friends of mine in dramatic circumstances.

Things are pretty bad in Hebden Bridge at the moment but they are not without precedent. And I think its still a fact that women are more likely to be attacked by their partner than walking around the streets, which is may be something we should reflect upon before deciding that things aint what they used to be for us poor middle-aged males....

Good post Richard, incidentally ........ (but the museum's a good idea IMHO)

See also:

Forum: Littering the Hebden Water

Hebden Bridge Cricket Club vandalised! (June 2005)