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Howarth: We must reclaim the streets

GERALD Howarth is on a collision course with police over what he sees as their unwillingness to tackle the escalation of anti-social behaviour in Aldershot and Farnborough.

In a strongly-worded statement the MP indicated that if the police were unwilling or unable to do anything, it is up to the public to stand up to the yobs.

The Tory MP revealed that Asda staff members had to restrain him for his own safety as he tackled a group of yobs outside the supermarket in Farnborough on March 30 after one of them urinated against a wall.

Furious Mr Howarth told the youngsters their behaviour was unacceptable, but was greeted with a torrent of abuse.

"I said if that's the way you want to play it, I'll have you arrested and I called the police. Of course, they didn't arrive for about a quarter of an hour and by then it was too late — they had gone."

It was the last straw for Mr Howarth after a string of incidents and he said it was time for decent people to reclaim the streets from drunks, vandals and louts.

"We cannot have this. It is simply unacceptable," he said. "It underlines the real corrosion of British society today. With the breakdown of family life, there is no discipline and no structure at home.

"These people just don't know how to behave and if the police are unwilling or unable to do anything about it, it is up to able-bodied people to take action. I am not prepared to just stand by and let this happen."

Mr Howarth is arranging an urgent meeting with Supt Joe Apps to outline his grievances.

The Conservative MP maintains that part of the problem is that police are concentrating on Key Performance Indicators, under which they are judged, while what is perceived as less serious crime goes unpunished.

"The KPI areas are basically burglary and car crime and so there is a great demand for police to concentrate on these crimes to keep the county in line with targets.

"The problem is this anti-social behaviour is regarded as less important, but it is absolutely intolerable that people should behave like this. I won't have it. I want to see these kids rounded up. I don't think Rushmoor has issued one Anti-Social Behaviour Order and I want to see them implemented. It's like a Third World country."

When it was suggested that Mr Howarth's have-a-go stance may put him on a collision course with police, he replied: "Frankly, I don't care. It is intolerable that these people should go unpunished."

Mr Howarth highlighted the plight of a family on the Totland estate in Farnborough who have been targeted by local yobs.

A family member has been beaten up, a car vandalised and they have been the subject of thefts.

"All of this has been captured on video, but the police have taken no action. I want to know why."

Mr Howarth recalled accompanying the police on a patrol about six weeks ago when an officer arrested a youth for urinating in the street.

"I can't criticise the policeman — he performed his job admirably. His attitude was that he wasn't prepared to let that happen in his town.

"But he more or less implied that he would be frowned upon when they got back to the station because it would clog up the system."

This is not the first time police have faced criticism in Rushmoor. Former Tory Mayor David Clifford sparked a political row last May when he accused the police of not doing enough to tackle unruly yobs in the wake of the Bill Clifford (no relation) tragedy.

Mr Clifford committed suicide while on a police charge after he tackled local tearaways who had been targeting him for months.

Supt Apps told the News that while anti-social behaviour is still a priority, police would not automatically respond unless it was a KPI incident, or there was an immediate threat to life.

There was little point in going out every time there was a call about youths, he said.

The policy was to instead log calls to build up information and then liaise with community groups, such as youth groups, social services where appropriate and voluntary groups, to find out why youngsters gather there and what facilities are in the area.

"The police should act as catalysts to enable people to have back their own community," he said.


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
Junior News & Mail
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