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Young people feel unsafe in Gillingham and Chatham, says Medway Youth Council report

By Dean Kilpatrick, local democracy reporter

Young people do "not feel safe" in Gillingham and Chatham, according to a new report produced by Medway Youth Council.

Chairman Thomas Baldock says there was a "perception" the two towns are "dangerous" among those who attended the organisation’s annual conference last November.

He also suggested young people had expressed particular concerns due to "smelling drugs, reports on social media, and dilapidation".

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The report reads: “These results seemed uniform regardless of where the participants were from, showing that - in general – young people from Medway do not feel safe in Gillingham and Chatham.

“In Gillingham, an increased police presence and groups of people 'hanging around' have contributed to it being perceived as unsafe.

“Similarly, in Rochester, parks such as Jackson’s Field are seen as being known territory for gang activity and drug use, and there is fear over crimes such as breaking and entering.”

When asked if they felt safe during the day in Medway, the average score from respondents was 3.8 out of 5.

Meanwhile, the figure dropped to 2.5 out of 5 “after dark”.

The questionnaire was conducted under the topic of “gang activity”, although Mr Baldock said police representatives believed such criminal behaviour was “potentially overstated”.

Cllr Andrew Mackness (Con), portfolio holder for children’s services, told colleagues: “I can understand why any young person can feel insecure.

“I think it’s important and there’s an onus on all of us who are responsible in our communities and are public figures to actually be realistic about the level of concern that our young people have.

"These results seemed uniform regardless of where the participants were from, showing that - in general - young people from Medway do not feel safe in Gillingham and Chatham" - Medway Youth Council report

“We must work with them to give assurances that they are safe.”

Cllr Pat Cooper (Lab) added: “Gillingham councillors are having lots of discussions with the local police about the issues that are in Gillingham.

"Be rest assured we are making sure it is a safe place for young people to go to.”

The report also showed 51% of respondents between the ages of 11 and 18 had seen a knife or sharp instrument at school, college or university – a statistic described as “quite frightening” by Cllr Mark Joy (Con).

Mr Baldock responded: “What is more concerning is what young people would do about it.

"Twenty-eight per cent said they would do nothing, which is quite a serious issue when you think about it.”

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