School children have been told to take advantage of free activities in their communities – instead of intimidating shoppers in Newcastle.
This week Northumbria Police has warned teenagers that they face arrest if they continue to gather in large numbers in the city centre.
It follows reports that crowds of up to 100 children, some as young as 12, had gathered in Eldon Square, Monument and Northumberland Street.
There were reports they were drinking, intimidating shoppers and getting involved in anti-social behaviour.
Officers have already taken dozens of children home to be spoken to in front of their parents but they have been warned they could be arrested.
And now police have teamed up with Newcastle City Council and urged youngsters to take advantage of the free activities on offer across the city.
Chief Inspector Steve Wykes, of Northumbria Police, said: “We know that lockdown has been a tough time for young people across the country.
“It has been difficult to not be able to socialise with friends and the closures of schools has left children with lots of spare time and empty schedules.
“The re-opening of our city centre has drawn in big crowds of young people but it is not an appropriate place to make a playground.
“Boredom is no excuse to drink, intimidate shoppers and behave in an anti-social manner during what is a vitally important recovery phase.
“We have heard people talk about a lack of activities for children but there are schemes out there to get involved in and there is funding for local community projects.
“The local authority is working closely with youth projects in our area and there is a lot on offer that will keep children out of trouble.
“We are calling on parents to work with us, make sure you know where your children are and take advantage of the help on offer to you.”
Streetwise and Play Newcastle are just two youth projects that are running Covid-safe events in the coming days and weeks.
Drop in events are being held across Newcastle that will provide access to food, live music, Wi-fi and free PPE equipment.
A number of initiatives have been funded by Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, through the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU).
She has also called on youngsters to take advantage of the activities available to them so they can avoid falling into trouble with the police.
Kim said: “This has been a really challenging period for young people, some have suffered isolation, loneliness and stresses not experienced before, but that is no excuse for the behaviour seen in the city centre recently.
“Young people will of course want to enjoy their summer and will be eager to gather in big groups and have fun – but I’d urge parents to talk to their children and young adults about how they’re doing this and where they’re going.
“I know youth services aren’t as easy to access as they were ten years ago, but I am committed to regrowing them and giving young people something positive to do.
“That’s why I’ve worked with organisations such as the Newcastle United Foundation, EDGE North East, and the North Benwell Youth Project to help fund a range of engaging activities this summer, including music production, football sessions , mountain biking and outdoor excursions – please get involved and engage with the services available, and stay safe this summer.”
Cllr Clare Penny-Evans, Chair of Safe Newcastle and Newcastle City Council cabinet member for Climate Change and Communities, said: “There are a great number of brilliant organisations operating during the summer to provide opportunities, activities and even nourishment for children of all ages.
“Many of them will be involved in Newcastle’s Summer of Change, which follows on from the success of last year’s Best Summer Ever.
“There is no need for children to be out in the city centre unsupervised where they can cause distress for others as they gather in large numbers.
“These programmes are put in place to help young people develop and give them something meaningful to do with their summer.
"I would encourage as many as possible to get involved rather than assembling in large groups where there is very little in the way of social distancing taking place, which we should all be continuing to observe.
“In order to recover as a city, avoid a second wave of Coronavirus and protect our most vulnerable residents, everyone must work collaboratively, and that needs young people in Newcastle to play their part and behave responsibly.”
Information about all the diversionary programmes, and to register for Newcastle’s Summer of Change, click here: https://network.streetgames.org/newcastles-best-summer-ever-participant-registration-form
Anyone who wants to report an incident, or anti-social behaviour, can do so by visiting the ‘Tell Us Something’ pages of the Northumbria Police website.
You can also call 101 or report it to independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.