People in Crook 'too scared' to go out at night over string of antisocial behaviour

  • Video report by Kris Jepson

Almost 200 incidents of antisocial behaviour have been reported to police in one County Durham town in the last four months.

Police said the 178 cases in Crook, near Bishop Auckland, were made up of neighbour disputes, environmental disturbances - like the playing of loud music - and people acting in an antisocial manner.

Although the police have introduced Operation Habu, which involves officers sending text messages to the parents of youngsters causing a nuisance to prevent escalation of the antisocial behaviour, residents who spoke to ITV News said they still feared going out at night and some even said they want to leave the town altogether.

“Susie”, who wanted her identity protected for fear of retribution, said: “It makes you feel very unhappy. It makes you feel insecure and I’d like to move away.”

Drawing on her personal experience, she added: “I was out walking the dog and there was a group of lads and they followed me… it made me feel very uneasy, because I knew that if I carried on I had no escape, so I walked back and I’ve not been down there since.

"Another time, one young lad threw something at the window and it actually went through the opening of the window and it hit me and left a bruise on my shoulder, which made me very wary of looking out to see what is happening. It makes you feel very unsafe.”

We met Darren Dorling at the town’s only public toilets. These had been set on fire early in the year in one reported incident. In response he set up an online group against antisocial behaviour, which he has since left, but he said its members were “fed up” of what had been happening.

He said there had been damage, adding: "Stones and bricks thrown at cars and buses. Bus shelters smashed. The chemists have been put through.

"As you can see the toilet block burnt down. People are having their houses and that targeted, basically stoned and bricked.

“We need more cameras. We need more CCTV, particularly in the market square and in Glenholme Park.”

Crook in County Durham has been blighted by antisocial behaviour over the last four months Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Paul Amos, an elderly man in the town, said he was “scared” to go out at night time, adding he was “basically looking over your shoulder every five minutes, especially when there’s gangs of kids about, because they don’t care".

He added: "The police station isn’t open that much, I think it’s only part time, isn’t it? So I think (it should be) manned a lot more and a lot more like police patrols.”

Single parent, Anthony Linton, who is disabled, said he considered getting his kids out of the area after two young people smashed his window.

Durham Constabulary told ITV News that six new CCTV cameras are due to be installed in the park and that numbers of reported antisocial behaviour incidents had dropped in April from 57 in January, 42 in February, 49 in March to just 30 so far this month, since the introduction of Operation Habu.

Inspector Ed Turner said: “What Habu did for us is that it made us focus our attention towards targeting those that were doing it and taking those individuals to task and we started texting parents, ‘did you know your son is here?’

"So I think my plea to your viewers and anyone who is watching this now, is do you know where your teenage child is this evening, this afternoon? Do you really know what they’re involved in? Because we’ve found in Crook particularly as small group of kids aren’t telling the truth and now they’re facing the consequences of that.”

Police say there is a lot of 'proactive work' to tackle the antisocial behaviour in the town Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

In response to the criticism about the police station only opening for five hours a day and the lack of police patrols at night, he said: “I think the police are trying their best, working with the partner agencies to really tackle some of the key issues. 

“So we’re doing quite a lot of proactive work, getting into the schools, doing presentations with the schools and making sure they understand what they’re actually doing.

"They might not realise that it’s actually wrong, but the consequences of that make people fear and quite often what we find when we do speak to people, as I’m sure as part of your reporting, that people’s fear of crime or fear of antisocial behaviour is disproportionate, because it’s reported about and people don’t play stories down, they actually play stories up. 

“In terms of policing Crook at the police station, yes it’s open for office hours, but this is very much 24/7 policing here in Crook and there is officers who are stationed here all the time.

"Do we really need it open and somebody there at 3am when the chance of somebody coming in is very, very slim? We don’t. We need the officers out on the streets patrolling and responding to incidents.”

He added the only way for the police to respond to antisocial behaviour is if the public report those incidents.

Durham County Council said: "So far, we have issued warning letters, carried out home visits and implemented a number of Acceptable Behaviour Contracts.

"This is a voluntary written agreement between a young person and ourselves in which the young person agrees not to take part in specific anti-social acts.”