Published: 06:00, 13 August 2021
| Updated: 15:27, 13 August 2021
Police have upped patrols and shop staff have been given body cameras after gangs of yobs began tormenting an area of Sittingbourne.
A five-day dispersal order was put in force last week following a number of incidents in Murston and Great Easthall.
Large groups of teenagers have reportedly been hurling abuse at the public and shop staff, riding quadbikes and mopeds antisocially and swimming in a prohibited lake off Mulberry Way on the isolated Great Easthall estate. Murston Road, Church Road and Harkness Court have been singled out as particular hotspots.
The dispersal order gives officers the power to move on any individual who they suspect is involved in nuisance behaviour, or arrest them if they fail to comply. It also gives patrols the power to escort anyone under the age of 18 home.
Residents have welcomed the police presence as fears grow over the impact these “gangs” are having on the area.
One man in his 50s, who lives in Murston Road and wanted to remain anonymous through fear of reprisals, has urged officers to keep up the patrols.
He said: “I’ve seen a group of around 10 teens who I’ve never seen before walking around and causing trouble.
“There seems to be more and more incidents occurring and police have to be called, which is really concerning.
“I don’t think issuing a five-day order will do much. What’s the point of it? Are they monitoring it? Will they continue it?
“I’ve seen the teens since the order was put in place and they’re not paying much attention to it.”
One woman, 82, who also lives in Murston Road, isn’t so sure the dispersal order will work.
The pensioner, who lives with her husband, said: “It’s getting completely out of hand and is a real concern for people living in the area.
"My greatest fear is that a tragic accident may happen..."
“We’ve heard of staff and shoppers up the road in the Co-op being abused just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For someone my age that would be absolutely terrifying and makes me think twice about going out.
“I don’t know if a five-day order will do much, if anything, and think there needs to be some tough punishment for these young lads.”
The Co-op, in Church Road, Murston, admitted it was having problems with yobs. A spokesman said: “Our store has experienced issues with a group of local teens, particularly on weekends, and we’re working with local police and PCSO teams to address this.
“The safety of our colleagues is our number one priority, so we’ve provided them with body cams and a tool called MySafety, which helps them to report incidents and get support.”
Swale councillor James Hall, who represents the Murston area, admitted he has had around 70 people attend community meetings to discuss the gang.
He said: “Residents are constantly calling 101 but according to residents the police response has been poor.
“I am delighted the police have made this order. It certainly needs extending as the children are now causing criminal damage too. I witnessed children as young as five years-old swimming in the lake, unsupervised. This is my greatest fear that a tragic accident may happen.
“There is clear signage saying no swimming. I know it is difficult for parents, but surely these very young children should not be allowed to wander unsupervised.
“These parents have a question to answer because if something happens to a small child they will not be able to forgive themselves. I trust and hope the police and social workers will deal with this as urgently as possible.”
Great Easthall is an isolated estate in Sittingbourne just off the Eurolink site and has become a hotspot for anti-social and worrying behaviour from youngsters in the area.
Speaking as the dispersal order was announced last week, Insp Joel Mitchell, from the Swale Community Safety Unit, said: “Since the beginning of the school holidays, we have already received 11 reports of nuisance and abusive behaviour in this particular area and that cannot be allowed to continue.”