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Toftwood gangs: Youngsters speak out

PUBLISHED: 17:14 06 April 2009 | UPDATED: 15:09 07 July 2010

Youngsters living in a troubled part of Dereham want a gang of youths to stop causing problems.

The gang has been making the lives of people living in the Hillcrest Avenue area of Toftwood a misery through criminal activity and anti-social behaviour.

Youngsters living in a troubled part of Dereham want a gang of youths to stop causing problems.

The gang has been making the lives of people living in the Hillcrest Avenue area of Toftwood a misery through criminal activity and anti-social behaviour.

Nearly 200 adults packed into a meeting in February where they described how their lives were being ruined by the youths doing everything from hurling verbal abuse at people to damaging cars to throwing stones at windows.

On Thursday, it was the turn of young people to have their say about the problems and what they would like done to improve the area during a Youth Street Briefing at Pond Park organised by the police, Breckland Council and other organisations.

Nine-year-old Nichole Fielding went to the event with her mum Joanne, 27.

“Make Toftwood safer so other children can play outside,” was among the points Nichole had written on a list she had prepared before the meeting.

She said: “I do not like it when the gang comes round the park.

“I cannot go out by myself. I am too scared.”

Other points she made were that she wanted the gang to be stopped from smashing cars and fences, and she said troublemakers should be put on a curfew and made to clean up the park. She also wanted a bigger park with swings and slides for older children.

Her mum said: “The gang has got to be stopped. We need to make the area safer for other children. It is not fair they are being punished for what the others are doing.”

Friends Leah Blake, 16, and Gemma Hagon, 15, have also been affected by the anti-social behaviour.

Gemma said: “They have threatened me and scared my family. I cannot go anywhere on my own. I do not have a social life because of what is happening.”

Leah said while the situation was getting better she still suffered verbal abuse on her way home from school. She said she thought Thursday's event was a good idea.

“It feels safer knowing something is being done,” she added.

The two teenagers said the area could be improved by having a graffiti wall to stop people scrawling graffiti elsewhere, having a youth shelter, a basketball court and other facilities which enabled the young people to get involved in activities together.

One mother, who did not want to be named, said she thought speaking to the children was a great idea but not in public where members of the gang could see and hear what was said. She feared some people did not go to the event because they were scared about the repercussions.

Tracey Baxter, anti-social behaviour officer for Breckland, said the area was chosen because it was easy for young people to get to and that there had been an excellent response from the young people.

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