New measures to tackle estate problems

Richard ParrA package of measures from police and a local authority aimed at tackling anti-social behaviour by youngsters on a Norfolk housing estate are to be introduced.Richard Parr

A package of measures from police and a local authority aimed at tackling anti-social behaviour by youngsters on a Norfolk housing estate are to be introduced.

Officers and Breckland District Council have reacted rapidly to concerns of some residents of the Hillcrest Estate at Toftwood, near Dereham, that their lives are being made a misery by a group of youngsters - including some reportedly as young as eight-years-old - who are running amok at night and into the early hours.

At a packed public meeting on Thursday resident after resident spoke of their concerns about threats and intimidation and how some older residents are in fear of leaving their homes at night. The problems have become so bad that some residents are considering selling their homes.

The catalogue of incidents includes damage to cars, stones and mud thrown at windows and exterior walls, abuse and swearing, and burning paper thrown into gardens.

People living on the estate, particularly in the area where roads carry European names like Brussels Close near to the grassed recreation area known locally as The Pond - have become angry and frustrated that the police appear unable to deal with the problem caused by a small group of youngsters.

One couple. Kevin and Wendy Pelling, said the problems started for them in September last year and until then they had lived in their house for 11 years without any problems.

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'They have been throwing things at our cars and the house and they are over in the park but because of the bank you can't see them. My husband chased six of them and caught one of them who turned out to be aged only 11,' said Mrs Pellway.

'We have been here for 11 years and we had no problems until September. I suggested that there should be CCTV installed over on the recreation area known as The Pond which is where they congregate. I cam home the other night at about 11.50 and there was a group of youngsters out there,' she said.

Inspector Peter Walsh stressed that measures are being put into place to tackle the problem and reassure residents.

'We are aware that one small band is responsible for the recent disorder on the Hillcrest Avenue estate and an arrest has been made and there will be more. We are appealing to parents to make sure they know where their children are and who they are with and ensure they are not causing a nuisance or responsible for anti social behaviour,' he said.

Insp Walsh admitted that communication by the police to local people had been lacking and he said there would not be an instant improvement to the problems.

Breckland Council will be collating the responses and suggestions from the public meeting and formulating an action plan.

The measures include enhancing the existing Neighbourhood Watch Scheme, holding a 'street briefing' for young people, and putting the issue on the agenda of the March 10 meeting of the Dereham Community Action Group.

'There have been a lot of positive ideas emerging from the residents and we will look at these with out partners. One of the areas we need to look at is why the youngsters are causing these problems and trying to see if issues they may have can be dealt with,' said a spokesman.