Local heroes awarded for beating bullies

LORNA MARSH They are the brave men and women who face levels of fear and danger that others shrink from. Yet these are not trained professionals but ordinary people within our neighbourhoods.

LORNA MARSH

They are the brave men and women who face levels of fear and danger that others shrink from.

Yet these are not trained professionals but ordinary people within our neighbourhoods. And they put themselves in the firing line not just for their own benefit but for their whole communities.

Now three unsung heroes from Norfolk and Suffolk have been given awards from the government for standing up to yobbish behaviour and winning.

They include a Norwich man whose neighbours from hell subjected him to a five-year reign of abuse before he finally got a court order banning them from harassing anyone on his street.

And a Lowestoft neighbourhood watch group who instilled such a sense of pride and respect in their community that anti-social behaviour diminished.

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Another man from Yarmouth tackled a group of yobs who were threatening and abusing him and his neighbours in one of the most deprived areas in the UK, helping to take them to court and eventually seeing them disbanded.

They are among eight people from across the East of England recognised for their efforts creating safer communities at a special awards ceremony in London and given £1,000 to be spent on improving their local area.

The winners each received a Respect Award For Taking A Stand (Raftas) for their commitment, energy and courage in standing up to vandals, thugs and nuisance neighbours.

They were nominated by the people who helped them to transform their communities - the police, local authority, anti-social behaviour team, members of the community and other agencies.

Home Secretary John Reid said at the ceremony: “The initiative shown is inspiring; these dedicated individuals have collected and given evidence in court, cleaned up their streets and parks, organised youth activities and set up residents and neighbourhood watch schemes. These awards are a fitting way to recognise these extraordinary people.”

Kirkley Street in Lowestoft was plagued by a range of anti-social behaviour problems including nuisance neighbours, drug dealing and gangs of youths intimidating residents. The local pub was a focal point for much of this activity, with under age drinking and disorderly behaviour.

The Kirkley Street, Clements Square and Martins Avenue Neighbourhood Watch Group successfully sought Asbos but went an important step further.

Rather than ostracising the pub or the youths, the group worked with the landlord and the whole community to clean up and rejuvenate the area.

This apparent cosmetic change led to a surge in pride and respect for the neighbourhood from everyone who lives there and for over more than six months there have been no reported incidents of anti-social behaviour.

Eric Aldred, committee member and editor of the group's newsletter, said: “The slogan for the awards was 'give respect, gain respect' and I feel we really embody that. We used to have gangs of people picking up rubbish but since that started there is not nearly so much rubbish dropped. People now have pride in their surroundings.”

Frederick Dyker from Hellesdon, Norwich, and his family were subjected to a five year reign of systematic abuse and assault by their neighbours, who eventually became the first private homeowners in the city to be served with an Asbo because of his relentless efforts to end the misery they inflicted.

The hate campaign also extended to other to several other families living nearby and Mr Dyker co-ordinated a united stance to tackle the perpetrators, providing unwavering support to other victims and giving them the courage and confidence to take a stand.

He said he was planning to put his £1,000 award money towards CCTV and basic security equipment enabling all members of the community to protect themselves against anti-social behaviour.

Robert Symonds was instrumental in tackling serious problems on an estate in Yarmouth after he and his family, as well as other older, vulnerable residents, were subjected to intimidation by youths, including serious threats of violence.

Despite the emotional impact, they continued to report incidents and make video recordings of the regular events.

Despite aggressive allegations and considerable abuse, an injunction and two criminal Asbos were obtained which has disbanded the group and led to an improvement in the area.