Fighting, drug taking, shouting and intimidation of passers-by has grown to such a level in Ramsgate town that one resident says they were ‘grateful’ when the second national Covid lockdown was announced.
The woman, who does not want to be named for fear of reprisals, says the issues are caused by a large group of ‘feral’ youths aged 12 to 17 who continually gather in the Queen Street and York Street areas, as well as the multi-storey car park.
Issues with anti-social behaviour and crime from youth ‘gangs’ in the town has been a historic problem dating back at least six years with the youngsters changing but the problems remaining constant.
The resident, who has suffered abuse and had her property vandalised in the past, said: “I am so grateful for this second lockdown as it was getting very bad outside again.
“After the first lockdown I realised how awful and stressful it had been getting. When we were locked down I was able to sit in my lounge and watch TV in peace in the evening at weekends without them running past my front door all the time. I did not have to put up with the stink of weed wafting in any open windows from the car park.
“But I am now making reports again, lots of times every week. It has been the usual large group of 12 to 17 year olds congregating outside the KFC, smoking weed outside and generally behaving like thugs.
“I have reported incidents of a big group of them baiting and having a go at passers by. The second incident they had cornered someone outside the KFC and were hurling abuse at him. It was getting nasty so I called 999. A police officer walked round the corner, likely responding to my first call, and he tried to disperse them.
“They did back off a bit but then they were all around the officer and still hurling abuse at the lone male.
“While I was telling the police control room what was happening a police van and patrol car turned up and most of the group scattered as they usually do.
“ There was also an incident I’m told, which I did not witness, about a month or two ago where there were 40 plus of them armed with scaffold poles going after someone up Effingham Street.
“The other night there were more than 30 of them in the town centre. Police attended and some sort of metal rod was confiscated but I don’t know if anyone was arrested
“Before the police arrived quite a few people were walking in the town and several cars just left the area quickly.
“People are starting to feel threatened again.”
Targeting hot spots
In 2017, 48 hour dispersal orders, patrols targeting ‘hot spots’ and making passwords necessary to access free wi-fi were put in place to target the antisocial behaviour.
Residents and businesses in the town and seafront had logged hundreds of complaints over vandalism, threats intimidation, drug dealing and nuisance behaviour during an 18 month period.
Regular meeting were arranged by county councillor Karen Constantine between business owners and police to try and combat the problem. But the meetings had to be repeated in 2018 with a fresh outbreak of incidents.
At the time Cllr Constantine said police resources were overstretched and more youth facilities could be part of the solution. Requests for CCTV coverage were also made.
In July 2018 Public Space Protection Orders were enacted for Central Harbour and Margate Central wards. PSPOs prohibit congregating as part of a group of 2 or more for such duration as specified, when directed not to do so by an authorised officer; on the basis that the behaviour is causing or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to others in the locality.
They also prohibit misusing any public space which is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to others and includes a ban on foul or abusive language that it is likely to cause distress and urinating, defecating or spitting in any public place.
A period of calm
In February of this year stop and searches, knife sweeps and the knock-on effects of a dispersal order brought calm to trouble hotspots in Ramsgate town centre.
Increased police visibility followed an attack on a 27-year-old man in Queen Street by a gang of teenagers on January 24.
The man, who was kicked, punched and stamped on, suffered injuries including a broken cheekbone.
Businesses and residents in the Queen Street, York Street and Harbour Street areas said they were still being plagued by youngsters intimidating shoppers, fighting, drug dealing and carrying out assaults.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Bidmead, from Kent Police, said three teenagers, over the age of 16, have been issued with Community Protection Notices and another is the subject of an Acceptable Behaviour Agreement.
He added: “We are aware of residents’ concerns about antisocial behaviour being committed by a group of young people in Queen Street and York Street, Ramsgate.
“This includes several reports received across October and November which state the group has been shouting amongst each other, verbally abusing members of the public and being a nuisance to shop staff.
“The incidents have mostly taken place on Friday and Saturday evenings and, when reports have been received, officers have attended. The group have always dispersed upon seeing a patrol.
“Our officers in the Thanet Community Safety Unit have identified a number of young people involved and met with them, and their parents, to encourage them to change their behaviour.
“Three teenagers, over the age of 16, have also been issued with Community Protection Notices and another is the subject of an Acceptable Behaviour Agreement, which has been signed by himself and his guardian. Failure to comply with these measures risks arrest and a fine.
“The area is regularly patrolled by officers, who will always seek to take proportionate action when incidents of antisocial behaviour are identified.
“We are also continuing to review the circumstances and are working with partner agencies, including the local council, to prevent further incidents.
“Antisocial behaviour is always committed by a very small group of people but we do not underestimate the disproportionate impact their actions have on the wider community.
“Anyone affected is encouraged to make a report to us via our website, or by calling 101, so we can gain an accurate picture of the issue and determine the most proportionate course of action.”