ASBO generation’

IF you believe everything you read in the tabloids then you might have noticed that we as a nation would seem to have come to demonise and fear our teenagers. But is the hooded ASBO generation of today really terrorising our neighbourhoods or is this a

IF you believe everything you read in the tabloids then you might have noticed that we as a nation would seem to have come to demonise and fear our teenagers. But is the hooded 'ASBO generation' of today really terrorising our neighbourhoods or is this a serious misconception? NATALIE BOWYER asked some young people what they thought.

DO young people think their generation has been given a bad image? Cheryl Brown, 16, from Brampton thinks they have. She says: "All those teenagers going out and getting drunk means adults think we are all the same and that gives us a bad image. Not all of us are going out and stealing and breaking things."

According to figures revealed in the British Crime Survey, there has been a 39 per cent drop in the incidence of crime since 1995. However anti-social behaviour (ASB) is thought to remain a serious issue, with around 66,000 reports of ASB made to authorities each day.

Alex Briggs, 17, from Brampton said: "We are restricted. We are not allowed to do anything. I wanted to go camping but you're not allowed on a camp site without an adult. The chavs are ruining it for us all."

Becky Samuels, 16, from Brampton said: "There is a lot of anti-social behaviour but it is in only in certain parts."

Andrew Pocock, 17, from Huntingdon said: "If they banned hoodies, you'd get cold wouldn't you. I'd still wear one. Or buy a hat. Old people look at us a bit funny but most people are fine."

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It seems that even the quietest of villages in Cambridgeshire are unable to escape from the 'ASBO generation'.

In Cambridgeshire between April 1999 and December 2005, 101 ASBOs were issued, compared to 1,237 in Greater Manchester and 43 in Lincolnshire. There are now thought to be 64 ASBOs in Cambridgeshire, six of which are in Huntingdon (including Sawtry), nine in St Ives and two in St Neots.

District councillor Ken Churchill said: "In recent months there have been a few incidents of anti-social behaviour in the village of Little Paxton. Little Paxton is a very desirable place to live and it is important to keep it that way for the benefit of everyone who lives there."

There has been in the past a dispersal order in Sawtry and there are currently dispersal orders in Huntingdon and St Ives.

Anti-social behaviour is any activity that impacts on other people in a negative way. The Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) was created by the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act and allows the banning of any activity that any individual believes causes them "alarm or distress".

* But do youngsters hanging around on street corners or skate boarding really cause any harm?

* Do kids hang around the streets more than they used to?

* Are we doing enough to keep youngsters off the streets and occupied?

* Is the answer to provide more youth facilities?

* Are ASBOs and dispersal orders really solving the problem or making things worse?

Nearly a third of young people see ASBOs as a badge of honour, according to an MTV poll. In Liverpool, schoolchildren are said to be actively seek the orders, "feeling left out because all their friends have letters after their names".

But could this really be happening in Cambridgeshire? According to the National Audit Office, 55 per cent of youngsters breach their ASBOs, which would indicate that the orders are not being taken seriously by the youths. For sale on Amazon is a book entitled How to get an ASBO priced at £6, which describes ASBOs as a 24/7 way of life, staying up all night playing loud music, smoking and drinking, shouting, screaming and fighting. So are ASBOs being seen as cool and, if so, it seems to have all gone wrong or - as the kids would say - 'Pete Tong'.

Should youngsters be victimised for what just a small group do and are we as a nation being too quick to accuse them and not giving them a chance.

Huntingdon Town Mayor, Councillor Jeff Dutton, says he agrees with the use of dispersal orders in principle but thinks the long term solution should be for the local authorities to provide more youth facilities.

Cllr Dutton told The Hunts Post: "Until the district council makes substantial investment in facilities for young people in Huntingdon, St Ives and other towns, anti-social behaviour will continue to be a problem.

"We need places where kids can go to let off steam. The young aren't all bad. A handful are and of them get tarred with the same brush." He thinks a skateboarding park in the town would go some way to solving anti-social behaviour in Huntingdon.

Police officer, Andrew Pickles, Huntingdon sector inspector, said: "Dispersal orders are by no way common things. They are just one way of dealing with the issue. Dispersal orders give the police certain powers to address anti-social behaviour. Just because we see a group of kids does not mean we will automatically disperse them.

"Anti-social behaviour isn't just a policing issue. The local authorities need to provide something for the kids to do.

"The majority of youngsters are good and just want to enjoy themselves but there is a core group of bad ones. I do not believe things are any worse than they used to be, we just have pockets of trouble across the district, but these are dying down and I can't see why any kid would actively try and get an ASBO."

So, could the kids' behaviour be a reflection of social and moral decline or disengaged youth and families or are they just being kids?

Since their introduction in 1999, a total of 9,853 ASBOs have been introduced in the UK.

Julia Michael, a mother from Huntingdon, thinks youngsters should be banned from wearing hoodies to curb anti-social behaviour. Her son's bike was stolen by a hooded youth in November, riden away from outside the Subway shop in Huntingdon.

She said: "My son had only left his bike for 30 seconds when it was taken by a young boy wearing a white hoodie."

She said her son had saved up for months and paid for the grey/black Saracen Xray mountain bike, which he used to travel to and from school.

INFORMATION: Should we be doing more to help the youth of today or are they just hoodies causing havoc? Let us know what you think. Send your views to editor@huntspost.co.uk or write to The Hunts Post, 30 High Street, Huntingdon, PE28 3TB.

* Anyone with information about the whereabouts of the Saracen Xray mountain should contact police on 0845 4564564.

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