THE Mayor of Great Aycliffe Town Council has defended the area against suggestions it is now a ‘no go zone’ after a spike in anti-social behavior – saying the council and police are ‘doing everything they can can” to reduce the numbers and eradicate persistent low-level crime.
Over the past six months worried residents have said they are too scared to visit Newton Aycliffe town center after 5pm due to inundation by ‘gangs’ of young people, vandalism, abuse and damage to public property.
As part of the complaints, The Northern Echo is releasing a special report to delve into all aspects of anti-social behavior and speak to residents, councillors, neighborhood policing teams and Durham Police and Crime Commissioner to determine whether the problem takes over the city or if the agencies have the problem under control.
Read more: SPECIAL REPORT: Aycliffe called antisocial behavior a ‘no go zone’
Although after speaking to locals, who said nighttime fighting, smashed windows and extensive damage made their lives ‘a living hell’, Great Aycliffe Mayor Cllr Sandra Haigh has now decided to stand up for the region against “unfair” pressures on figures of antisocial behavior.
As part of an agency project, Cllr Haigh is working with city and county councilors, as well as the police, to install CCTV cameras in problem areas – which has reduced anti-social behavior by 15% , according to the mayor.
While Cllr Haigh admits there is a problem in Newton Aycliffe – she also claimed that ‘there is plenty’ for young people to do in the town – dispelling the ‘myth’ that the lack of youth infrastructure is driving the rise of anti- social behavior.
She said: “Through a partnership with the police, we were able to secure funding for CCTV cameras in several problem areas, which reduced the number of anti-social behaviors by 15%. Yes, we see a lot of problems, but we are also doing a lot to fix them.
“There have always been problems at Newton Aycliffe – but it seems to have gotten worse. I have been contacted by people to tell me that they were afraid to go out.
“My message to those causing trouble would be that Newton Aycliffe and Great Aycliffe are for everyone – these young people can’t just take over the town centre, the parks and commit acts of vandalism, it’s not correct.
Read more: Aycliffe’s mother documents ‘months of hell’ at the hands of terrorizing youths
“We used to have naughty kids, like everywhere, but it seems like a lot of trouble came late in the evening. Hard workers are targets of vandalism, abuse and other crimes and that’s not fair – something has to be done.
As well as working with the police, Cllr Haigh pointed out that the emergency services do a lot ‘behind the scenes’, including issuing penal orders for regular offenders.
But cited that “more can always be done” to tackle the issue at hand.
She added: ‘This is a police matter and a matter that the council cannot do much about. We have limited resources, but they do more than the public gives them credit for.
“What I wonder is why this antisocial behavior is happening. Usually, problems like this stem from the fact that there is nothing to do. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We have football clubs, parks, running clubs, community groups and more.
“Councillors have come to me with complaints we have received from residents – we need to stamp this out, nip it in the bud and give the people of Newton Aycliffe better.
Read more: Police respond to anti-social behavior in Newton Aycliffe
“No one should feel intimidated in their own town.”
Over the next few days The Northern Echo will continue the special report into anti-social behavior issues at Newton Aycliffe, speaking to officers, district councilors and police and Durham Crime Commissioner Joy Allen to report find out more if it can be controlled or if it’s a spiraling problem that’s too much for even the police.
You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest news in the area by clicking here.
For all the top news from across the region straight to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter here.
Do you have a story for us? Contact our press office on firstname.lastname@example.org or contact 01325 505054