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How police crack down on mischief makers.


IT'S the night that Teessiders dread and the police cancel leave to prepare for.

But officers don't believe the day before Halloween should be called Mischief Night - for the gangs of youths throwing eggs and fireworks, damaging cars, and causing trouble are "engaging in criminal behaviour".

Cleveland Police dealt with around 300 incidents across Teesside on Monday night - and it's likely there were many more incidents that were unreported.

"What's criminal behaviour yesterday and what will be criminal tomorrow will be treated as criminal today," said Assistant Chief Constable Jason Harwin as he addressed officers at Coulby Newham police station before heading out on the beat.

Inspector Dave Snaith - who was directing operations in Middlesbrough on the ground - told his officers "to keep doing what you've been doing for weeks".

As soon as the schools go back after summer, and the nights get darker, anti-social behaviour begins to creep up.

More than 200 officers are brought in and all leave is cancelled to deal with the flood of bad behaviour on Mischief Night - but Insp Snaith explains how his team have been trying to battle yobs for six weeks.

They've been using dispersal orders - which ban youths from congregating in a certain areas.

Hotspots in Middlesbrough have included Pallister Park and Norfolk shops in Berwick Hills, Park End and the skate park, and Grove Hill. Across Teesside, Redhill Road shops in Roseworth, Stockton, parts of Billingham, Grangetown and parts of Redcar have also seen a number of problems.

Out with officers we head first to Norfolk Road shops and then into Pallister Park, which is dark with multiple exit points and hiding places. You can see why it's so easy for youngsters use the park to launch stones and fireworks at traffic on Ormesby Road.

The exchanges between police and the youths hang-ing round in threes and fours is cordial - one young lad, who looks about 12, struggles to explain why he's cycling outside the shops.

He'll probably head straight home after a friendly chat with ACC Harwin.

But the larger presence can work both ways, says one sergeant: "Some of them just like the chase though."

As another group of lads scatter as we walk around Thorntree later in the night, ACC Harwin explains why: "It's all some of them want. If they were committing a serious crime then we would obviously step in and make arrests. We've got over 200 officers out tonight but we won't catch everyone."

Officers also spoke to local business owners about how they're coping.

Tina Mills, assistant manager at Parker's newsagent in Berwick Hills, is frank: "It's good that they're out tonight but we need this sort of presence all the time. They've (youths) been chucking bottles and stones in the shop, setting off fireworks, getting on the roof.

"Customers are getting to the point where they won't come in on a night."

The shop has banned the sale of eggs and flour on Mischief Night too.

Our police van snakes around Middlesbrough, responding to calls. But frustratingly, we always seem to be a step behind.

Insp Snaith: "Our officers know these streets but the local youths know every short cut and side street."

That's particularly evident as we speed to Beresford shops in Thorntree, after reports that a firework had been launched by youths and injured an elderly man.

But when we get there, apart from a few stragglers, the huge group has gone.

That's the story of the night as we speed to Grove Hill and then back to Thorntree, after a deaf and vulnerable man saw his windows broken by five youths. In Netherfields, a police car is bricked and a male is arrested.

In the control room at the force's HQ on Ladgate Lane, we watch the youths launching fireworks in Thorntree on CCTV on a huge screen.

The phones are ringing off the hook, as a surge sees 77 reports of anti-social behaviour within half an hour.

"Our main areas of trouble historically have been Thorntree and Berwick Hills, but it's been happening all over the town," said Superintendent Bev Gill. "The crazy time is usually between 7pm and 9pm. The CCTV we get is invaluable and can lead to people being identified later."

There are six dispersal orders also in place and the policing response continues after Mischief Night - Halloween through to Bonfire Night is also very busy.

But, as is evident from our short trip out with officers, they're doing all they can.


Police in Park End, on Mischief Night IAN COOPER

Staff at the incident room at police HQ monitor CCTV during ongoing incident at Beresford Shops in ThorntreeIAN COOPER
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Nov 1, 2017
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