Children risk lives in Huntingdon “free running”

CHILDREN as young as 12 are risking their lives taking part in a dangerous craze in Huntingdon.

Gangs of youths have been caught jumping on to roofs in the town centre, causing thousands of pounds-worth of damage to businesses and putting themselves in grave danger.

The latest incident happened on Saturday afternoon, when up to 20 youngsters were spotted jumping from the Waitrose car park onto the roof of The Parsley Pot gift shop before climbing up onto the roof of the Commemoration Hall, which stands more than three storeys high. It is believed the youths then take pictures of each other as they stand next to the hall’s statue of Minerva to post on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Kondje Selim, owner of The Parsley Pot, said she was angry at having to pay more than �3,000 to fix her damaged roof and install security measures.

“This is the second time I have had to pay to fix the roof,” she told The Hunts Post. “When I first took over, the roof was in the same state. The repairs this time are going to cost �2,000 and on top of that I have someone coming out to install razor wire and the required legal signs, which is going to cost another �1,500. I can’t afford to pay my suppliers, let alone this. But I’m in a catch 22 situation – the roof is exposed down to the felt. If we get any heavy rain or snow it would seriously damage the roof and all my stock upstairs.”

She added: “There are no repercussions for them – they know they are not going to get into trouble because they are too young. Why can’t they do what we used to do as kids? Watch a movie, go for a walk or a bike ride. Why is anti-social behaviour fun?”

Malcolm Laurie is the caretaker at the Commemoration Hall. He explained that he was working at the hall on Saturday when he heard a “commotion” outside and went to investigate.

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He described seeing a group of 10 boys and girls aged no more than 16, “egging on” their friends who were jumping across sections of the pitched roof.

He said: “You are talking three storeys if you fall – that’s at least 20ft onto concrete.

“It’s all done to impress – ‘look at me, look what I can do’. Until somebody falls and seriously injures or paralyses themselves, I don’t think any of the kids will actually recognise the amount of danger they are in.

“I have been up on the roof in all the proper safety equipment… There is a lot of slate up there and with all the rain it is very slippy. It doesn’t take much once you start to slip.”

Mr Laurie said that as well as putting themselves in danger, they were also risking the safety of people inside the building: “Where the old reading room area is, there is a lot of old plaster work on the ceilings. With a lot of vibrations from the kids jumping on the roof, that plaster could be dislodged and if we have a function on you are talking about plaster falling 20ft onto people’s heads.”

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire police said: “We were called at 2.40pm to reports that children had been on the roof of the Commemoration Hall, however, at the time of the call they had left.

“At around 4pm we received a call reporting children on the roof of buildings in the High Street, close to Francis Wain. Officers attended and one child was taken home and given words of advice.

“Clearly this is extremely dangerous and we would urge people to report any incidents immediately.”