I’ve just come from a small get-together at the Powell Arms in Birchington, which included my fellow Gazette columnist Ewan Cameron and four of our local councillors.
While we were there, I couldn’t help but notice the number of “Hoodies”, teenage boys congregating on the square, darting about and playing football across the mini roundabout that marks the entrance to the village.
What happens next I wondered and was pleasantly surprised to see a police car with two officers appear and stop outside the pub, one of them leaving the car to talk to the group of teenagers, dressed in their thin tracksuits in what was by now a temperature below freezing.
I asked one of the bar staff if this happened much. The police presence I was told is the exception rather than the rule and apparently the kids will often greet a passing police car with welcoming shouts of “oink oink pigs pigs.” The police it seems rarely stop unless they really have to.
After the near fatal assault in Minnis Bay last month, I was told that the hoodies had been less visible but now, they are building-up their confidence again and new trouble is most likely brewing.
I should add that you need to know what I'm writing about in the context of recent local problems and that the teenagers in the square tonight were not causing any particular crime beyond the reckless use of a football. However it’s their presence and unruliness which is intimidating local people. Thanks to the criminal justice system they are almost ‘bullet-proof’ and they know it, which doesn’t inspire an atmosphere of confidence in the local community, which will very soon, I’m told, will have it’s policing directed from Canterbury.
But if these lads are causing a consistent nuisance and I’m assuming the police are on first name terms with them, then isn’t this one of the reasons that government gave for the creation of ASBOS? Prevent certain known groups of teenagers gathering outside the Powell Arms or do the police prefer to have them occasionally running amok there rather than somewhere else where they can’t see them.
I’m sure one of our Birchington readers or perhaps an anonymous member of the police can tell us more about this. I was just lucky enough to be around to see it all happening for myself tonight.