AN emergency meeting was held in the aftermath of anti-social behaviour in Stalybridge town centre.
Councillor David Sweeton requested the summit at Ashton Police Station that involved himself, council officers and police chiefs to discuss the trouble that flared at Tesco’s supermarket, though there was another incident outside the railway station.
The latest problem at Tesco’s was the most serious as youths are alleged to have threatened staff, damaged an employee’s car while stealing and setting off a fire extinguisher in the car park.
And there was another incident when a group of youths were reported to be kicking a ball at passing cars as well as commuters using the station resulting in a scuffle between adults and the youths.
Cllr Sweeton, who orchestrated the meeting, explained trouble occurs periodically.
He said: “It is unfair to put the blame on the council or others, it’s parental responsibility.
“The problems start at home and the solutions start at home. It is not just about the police and parents are not doing their kids any favours.
“I called the meeting for the police to respond to what happened and to see if the council can do anything to help, whether that be with anti-social behaviour orders or dispersal notices.”
Tesco’s had already taken measures to combat issues before the most recent incident – it included closing the toilets in an evening on a trial basis in a bid to deter youths from congregating.
This came after the store had to be evacuated when youths set off fireworks inside the building.
In the latest incident, it is claimed supermarket staff were abused and threatened, fireworks were place in the exhaust of an employee’s car and a fire extinguisher stolen and set off.
Dave, who witnessed the trouble, gave a detailed account on Stalybridge Town Facebook.
“We’ve all hung round the streets as a teenager and done our fair share of mischief. This is going beyond mischief though and heading into disturbing the peace, drunk and disorderly, criminal damage and sometimes worse,” he wrote.
Dave added police were called but had not responded during the 30 minutes he was at the scene to deal with the youths he believed were aged between 11-18 years.
He continued: “The other side of the coin is, where do these youths go? What is there locally for this age group? Tackling the problem cannot simply lie with policing and punishment.
“We have already looked this week at the shocking anti-social behaviour statistics. Because of a minority of troublemakers and a lack of social inclusion, we are in danger of criminalising a whole generation.”
Cllr Jan Jackson, chair of Stalybridge Town Council, was critical of the police response time, declaring: “It allows gangs to run amok and by the time the police arrive the youths have scarpered.
“It is down to Tory cuts and local crime is down the list in terms of priority.”
Tesco’s Stalybridge store manager Andrew Schofield said: “We’re conscious of anti-social behaviour at our store and do a lot to tackle it as part of our responsibility to the local community.
“We are working closely with the police, PCSOs, schools and other authorities on both preventative and reactive measures and will always act on any feedback.
“We’re grateful of the support we receive locally and will continue to work hard on this issue.”
At the town council meeting, anti-social behaviour was discussed, with one member of the public saying she felt unsafe walking through the town centre at night due to youths congregating.
Kevin Garside, integrated neighbourhood services manager, gave a presentation at the meeting.
He admitted there were problems in Stalybridge, but pointed out they were nowhere on the scale of those in Ashton and Hyde.
A statement from Greater Manchester Police said: “At 8.50pm on Saturday 23 September 2017, police were called to reports of a disturbance at Tesco on Trinity Way, Stalybridge.
“Officers established a large group of youths were lighting fireworks at the front of the store. The group of youths had moved off prior to police attending. Local neighbourhood police are aware of the issues.”
Anyone with any information is asked to contact police on 101 quoting 2037 of 23/09/17 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.