As you probably know, we on the good ship Huddersfield Times love sharing good news and positivity with our wonderful readers, but this doesn’t mean we can stick our heads in the sand and ignore other things that are going on, impacting the lives of our friends and neighbours.
The issue that’s cropping up on our radar again and again recently is ‘antisocial behaviour’ (ASB). I put it in inverted commas because I personally believe a lot of it is technically criminal behaviour, but ASB is the name it tends to get, and the name I’ll use for the purposes of this article.
Part of the reason that I’m writing about this now is because things seem to have taken a turn for the particularly nasty. Kids and young adults have messed about a bit since the dawn of time, pushing their luck, being cheeky, perhaps engaging in a little petty theft if the opportunity arose. Back in my day (not saying how long ago this was), if an adult was around and gave them an earful, they’d scarper. This doesn’t seem to make a difference now.
Residents of Mereside, Fenay Bridge – or Waterloo depending on who you ask – are dealing with a spate of ASB at the moment. One resident, who we’ll call Alex, has had gangs of over 20 older teens gathering outside their house “practically every day”. A deluge of verbal abuse spills from these youths, often racist in nature. Alex has CCTV of these incidents, which is very lucky as things came to a head on Sunday July 25th.
Alex described how one of the group pulled out what appeared to be a gun, waving it around and threatening them with it. “There were more than 20 youths there, laughing and jeering with him. No one stopped this action”. The ringleader only left when he saw Alex calling the police, and even then some of his mates hung around, refusing to name him when the police arrived. The police have stated that this is a racially motivated attack.
Other residents of Mereside are also fed up with the ASB occurring there, some even saying that the teens seem to be getting dropped off by parents to hang around in the area! As well as the harassment and loitering, groups have a habit of bringing shopping trolleys from the nearby Morrisons to mess about with and dumping them in Fenay Beck along with any other rubbish they have on them when they get bored. Residents feel that Morrisons could be doing more to stop this from happening, and don’t feel that occasionally removing them from the beck is enough.
Words of hope came from a neighbour of Alex’s, who said it had been “great to see neighbours come out in a united front and support one another”. As previously mentioned, this probably would have deterred such behaviour in the past, but doesn’t seem to anymore. Cllr Alison Munro, Lib Dem councillor for Almondbury ward has requested a meeting with the police and Kirklees to discuss this issue.
An incident on Leeds Road in recent weeks involved a handful of teens following a much younger boy back to his home, telling him they were going to take his bike. Several adults came out of the houses to tell them to clear off, which they did – but assured them that they would return.
When they did return, things became physical with one of the youths pulling the boy’s older brother to the ground, punching and kicking him. It was at this point that another of the older teens pulled a fairly large kitchen knife out from his waistband and started waving it about. Whilst it’s likely he did this to be threatening rather than intending to use it, it could have easily injured someone in the chaos with people being pushed around all over the place. Bizarrely, they weren’t in a rush to leave the scene afterwards, and were filmed casually strolling away.
The third incident occurred in Birkby and was purely verbal. Four young males decided to stop on their way down the street to subject residents of one house to a tirade of unpleasant comments, ridiculous noises and homophobic abuse. Two of them were enjoying themselves so much, they decided to perch on a garden wall across the road and carry it on for upwards of half an hour.
Now maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I just don’t get the mentality of any of this. How does someone see a boy riding his bike, and decide they are going to take it for themselves? It’s not even a crime of opportunity, seeing a bike left lying around in public and nabbing it. Is it some twisted sense of entitlement? Do they even want the bike, or do they just find it amusing to cause conflict?
I’m aware of an article in another publication recently that painted Huddersfield as being full of ‘feral teens’, suggesting that ASB is basically inevitable. It would be very sad indeed if people took that at face value. There will always be some ‘bad apples’, but the majority of our youngsters are as fed up of this sort of behaviour as the rest of us. I started writing this on a visit to the new Birkby Library, and what I saw there really made my day; children of all ages using the library in a polite and sensible way. Not just families either. A handful of boys came in together to check out a particular section and behaved impeccably. Two others arrived to use the computers together and were quiet and respectful to the library staff.
There are some phrases that tend to get recycled when discussing topics like this. People say that the problem is because ‘there’s nothing for kids to do these days’. They’ll say it’s down to bad parenting, or poor schooling. Some will lay the blame firmly at the door of Kirklees, for no other reason than they seem to do this with everything. There are things for young people and kids to do, they just might look different to the good old youth club that many of us will remember from our childhood. Since we started Huddersfield Times in December, I’ve been absolutely astounded at how many organisations we have in Huddersfield that offer clubs and activities to kids, often free of charge. So is this a case of the old adage ‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’?
We’re genuinely interested in debate on this topic. No finger-pointing, no blame or hand-wringing. Let’s talk about what needs to change. Let’s think about what we can do to make a difference.