Thanks for your call on Tuesday in regard to both The County and District Council's initiative in engaging the local populace in regard to determining how best to approach the perceived problem of anti-social behavior in the area.
As I pointed out during our conversation I was slightly perplexed by your apparent assertion that both the District Council and local Police had informed you that there is a major anti social behaviour problem in the area, giving me at least, the impression that this was concentrated in and around the Centre!
As I explained, I have been here since 1999, and I do have the scar to prove it, from where I was attacked by a large group of youths. At that time and up until the last couple of years it is true to say that there was indeed a large problem with local youths in the area and largely centred and concentrated around the Market and shops. It would also be fair to say that we, as a company and the major landowner in the area have to vicariously shoulder some of the responsibility in that, with the configuration of the 'old market' giving the youths who had nowhere else to congregate, a ready 'playground' where they could climb and run about on the market stall roofs and then in adverse weather, take shelter to drink, smoke and do whatever else they got up to under cover of the stalls. This was intimidating to the general members of the public and our own tenants who passed through the centre at all hours.
In addition the Local School, was, in my opinion, badly managed by the then incumbent headmaster and we suffered greatly at the hands of those pupils who did not want to be there, could not go home and from the large number of excluded pupils who seemed not to be given any other option but to hang about on the streets, once excluded, as neither the Local or County authorities seemed to have any firm plan in place to deal with those excluded or to round up those who were truanting. And so, the anti social problems were exacerbated by this too. As far as graffiti in the Centre is concerned, this too was a major problem. Again, we managed this by painting all of our low level walls white, giving the taggers a blank canvas to work on, but as soon as they tagged a wall we painted over it and within three months the taggers were avoiding us completely, so even that problem has been resolved.
All of that is not to say that there are still not the occasional problems within the Centre and with our tenants but these are largely directed at shops, the late night pizza shop has, I am informed, been the target of both anti social and racial abuse, people being refused in selling goods to the local pawn shop who become aggressive, these are clearly serious but criminal matters, well at least in relation to the racial abuse and not normal 'run of the mill' anti social issues.
Since, we took the decision to redevelop the Centre and demolish the market we are largely trouble free with only the odd incident of anti social behaviour to contend with and most of the local populace, including the youths of the area know that we have an extensive CCTV system covering the Centre and we regularly provide the local PCSO's with images from the system, or not so regularly now.
Of course while I accept some of the blame as mentioned earlier this cannot take away from the fact that a large number of parents have no control over their offspring, and society in general, along with the complete lack of direction by central government and local authorities and the pulling back of any involvement in providing youth clubs or direction for children. This, of course includes the lack of direction and support for those parent less able to communicate at any level with their children by entering into meaningful dialogue and are not able even to offer guidance on right and wrong or fitting in and belonging to an inclusive society; all of this has been sadly lacking over the last forty years when it was the case that wherever you went there was at least some form of activity taking place in church and council run clubs in almost every district of the land from John O'groats to Lands End .....
So, while I applaud and recognise any initiative that will reverse the trend of non involvement I don't see that a mobile youth club parked up once a week on our new square is going to facilitate that initiative, particularly when you have the local authorities, 'The .......', only 200 metres away which, seems to me to be pre-eminently situated within the burgh, open every day and night for local community activities, and has the rooms and halls to house youth services located within it, on a full time basis, encouraging both the advantaged and not so advantage youths in the area to participate in activities.....
I may well pop along to the proposed event, could you remind me of date and times please, out of curiosity, but I fear I am not going to be in a position to offer you any positive help by way of facilities based on the comment in the preceding paragraph.