Residents take stand against louts

SHAUN LOWTHORPE When a teenage gang turned a Norwich estate into a no-go area, residents decided to take a stand. Rowdy youths had taken over Shipfield about 18 months ago and with them came problems ranging from graffiti, vandalism and kicking a ball around late at night, to swearing, drinking and drug use day and night.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

When a teenage gang turned a Norwich estate into a no-go area, residents decided to take a stand.

Rowdy youths had taken over Shipfield about 18 months ago and with them came problems ranging from graffiti, vandalism and kicking a ball around late at night, to swearing, drinking and drug use day and night.

But defiant residents turned to their landlord, Broadland Housing Association, in a bid to fight back.

Margaret Owen, of the Shipfield Residents' Association, said they began noting all the problems. Broadland Housing Association introduced security officers and CCTV. The police and Norwich City Council also pitched in to help.

Through organised resident meetings and estate walkabouts the association discussed ways of resolving the problem and encouraged other residents to get involved.

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And last November the combined efforts saw the introduction of a dispersal order to banish the perpetrators from the area.

The order, which ends shortly, has had a dramatic effect with a 76pc drop in police calls from 71 to 17.

In the six months before, the police alone recorded 212 calls relating to anti-social behaviour in the area.

“It took us about nine months to get the thing sewn up,” Mrs Owen, 74, said. “We've had CCTV cameras, and environmental health officers in because of the noise and the police have been very good to us. Things started to improve when the young people realised their drink was being taken away.”

Sharon Parker, 32, who grew up in the area, said: “They were smashing bottles and beer cans, and using the place as a toilet. Our children couldn't play in the area. I grew up around here but we never caused trouble like this lot. If there was any trouble people would come out of their doors and stand up to them.”

Now the residents have won a government “Respect for Taking a Stand Award” plus £1,000 to help fund more community improvements.

And the next step starts tomorrow with a meeting to begin to work out ways to improve the area and provide better facilities for youngsters to make sure the problems do not return.

“I am extremely proud to be receiving this award. There is a greater sense of community pride in Shipfield and the area feels safer,” Mrs Owen added.

Gary Orr, director of Housing at Broadland Housing Association said: “We are extremely proud of Margaret and the team at Shipfield and hope that their example inspires others to take a stand against anti-social behaviour.”

Sgt Richard Ellis, from Norfolk Constabulary, said his team of officers, special constables and PCSOs had done a huge amount of work in the area to tackle the problems, but most importantly the community had worked closely with them.

“We are very grateful for the support of the Shipfield residents who took a stand against a minority of people who were making their lives a misery,” he said.

Louise Casey, the government's co-ordinator for Respect, who presented the award, said it was a recognition of the bravery and determination shown by the residents.