WHEN I visited Normanton town centre early evening last week to pick up my wife from work, I immediately noticed the absence of youths who regularly skateboard in the car parks and town centre.
At that moment I spotted two PCSOs patrolling the immediate vicinity, so I approached them to find out where the kids were and was told they had all been cleared off and were probably in the parks or estates. I thought this unusual as the banning order stipulated that it only came into effect after 9pm unless they were causing a public nuisance.
I questioned the officers about the banning order. They were quite pleasant and down to earth normal folk and we came to an agreement that the banning order was a sledgehammer to crack a nut and not all but a few youngsters were a problem, and good community policing was the answer.
I went back up town again around 6pm. I soon came across a group of youths, around a dozen or so, and most looked under 16 years old. Some I recognised as I had spoken to them before. They said that soon the PCSOs would arrive and move them on and usually gave them 15 minutes to do so regardless.
They said they were upset that one of the officers had threatened to take away a public bench which they congregate around, which is a permanent memorial to one of their skateboard friends who sadly died there last year on that very car park.
They all seemed well-spoken and not the yobs we are led to believe. They reiterated the fact that they felt safe in the well-lit and CCTV areas and didn’t want to be dispersed into dark hostile areas. They spoke of older groups of youths in those areas, bullies and drugs and alcohol were also a concern.
They are all aware of their civil rights and their right to be in a public place and are raising questions of why the ban doesn’t discriminate between the good and the bad and they felt it was being misused and abused by the authorities.
I can honestly say if someone is causing a nuisance and drinking under age then and only then should these culprits be dealt with, but by proper policing with laws that are already in statute. We shouldn’t let a few scaremongers allow our children’s loss of liberty be the solution to a small problem, born out of the inability to police our streets,