Teenage tearaways causing havoc in Blackpool town centre have been warned they can expect a call from police if they don’t change their ways.
Officers have used the strongest powers available in a crackdown on gangs of youths who have been involved in anti-social behaviour at a number of locations across the resort.
Powers that allow police to arrest anyone who remains in a designated area once asked to leave have been used with unusual frequency in recent weeks, with 20 dispersal orders handed out in the last fortnight.
The Gazette understands problems have related to teens, aged between 13 and 16, gathering around McDonalds in Bank Hey Street, the MFA Bowl in Market Street and the Odeon Cinema in Rigby Road.
One officer said problems with youths have persisted in the town centre since the Fireworks Championships held in the resort each Friday in September last year.
This is not the first time police have been forced to deal with serious problems with teenagers running amok in the town centre.
Police will flood into Blackpool town centre this weekend in a bid to prevent a repeat of the ‘appalling’ riot which left three officers injured.
In 2014 around 500 youths were caught up in the trouble on Bank Hey Street which saw police pelted with bottles as they tried to break up a fight on a Friday night as the town was packed with families for the World Fireworks Championships.
A total of 12 people were arrested – the youngest just 13-years-old.
As half-term gets underway, police are keen to bring the latest problems under control quickly.
Efforts to identify every single teenager involved have seen police threaten home and school visits to those continuing to misbehave. The issue has also been addressed in assemblies in Blackpool schools.
Temporary inspector James Martin, of Lancashire Police, said: “We have taken steps to identify a number of young people attending the town centre to commit anti-social behaviour and are using a variety of early intervention and early action tactics to deter poor behaviour.
“These include the use of dispersal orders, which when given to an individual, prohibits the person from entering the town centre for up to 48 hours. Anyone breaching the order could be arrested.
“The neighbourhood policing team is also using home visits, school visits and discussions with parents as other means of educating young people that poor behaviour will not be tolerated in the town centre.”
A range of low level crimes have been recorded in recent weeks, including criminal damage to a stone lion in Church Street and the theft of vodka from a well known bar.
As well as the use of dispersal orders, police have put in place dedicated highly visible patrols, focusing on anti social behaviour hot spots.
Blackpool Council has also been assisting, using CCTV cameras to identify the youths involved.
And Insp Martin said the authority could issue warnings and even injunctions against persistent offenders.
He said: “Blackpool Council is supporting the police reassurance operation by managing the issuing of community protection notices and warnings and also managing the use of anti-social behaviour injunctions on people under 16.”
Blackpool Council said the system works on a sliding scale, with inductions used as a last resort.
Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “We are working with the police to help them identify individuals responsible for some town centre disruption and, where possible, provide support that will help bring any anti-social behaviour to an end, using the community tools and powers that are available to us.
“We use these tools and powers on a regular basis to protect the local community and this case is no different.”