POLICE in Barnoldswick took decisive action last weekend to tackle a growing problem in the town.

Youths and children, some as young as 10 or 11, have been seen drinking in the streets and causing a variety of problems.

Often they have gathered in groups of 30 or more and police have received reports of people feeling intimidated or being harassed, and of damage to property.

By no means all the young people out on the streets are causing problems, some just have nowhere else to go. But there is a hard core of troublemakers and their activity is almost always linked with drink.

With the light evenings and warmer weather, the police are keen to nip the problem in the bud before it gets worse.

Sergeant Peter Henderson, of Barnoldswick Police Station, explained that his officers had identified the problem as a growing and unwanted trend. Having done so they will implement a range of initiatives to stamp it out, working closely with a number of "partners". They include local off-licences, parents of children causing problems, and local schools.

Sgt Henderson has already met with Arnold Kuchartschuk, headteacher at Barnoldswick's West Craven High School, who has pledged his support on the issue of under-age drinking and other issues related to juvenile nuisance.

Last Friday night was the focus of the new campaign. In the days leading up to it, police officers visited all off-licences in the West Craven area to explain and reinforce the rules on selling alcoholic drinks.

All the premises were keen to co-operate fully and are now displaying warning posters about people buying drink under age.

One particular problem facing off-licence staff is when youths get older people to buy drink for them. However they can refuse to serve anyone they suspect of buying alcohol for under-age drinkers.

Anyone caught buying drink for youngsters could also find themselves in hot water.

On Friday night four local officers and two special constables set out to patrol Barnoldswick, specifically tasked to confront under-age drinkers.

They caught and cautioned 13 youths between the ages of 13 and 17 and seized a quantity of beer and cider.

When drink is confiscated it is often poured down the nearest grate.

Sgt Henderson said this was just the first of several initiatives to tackle the problem, and in future there would be prosecutions, not just cautions, for those caught out.

The clampdown will not be limited to Barnoldswick - similar operations are planned for Earby and anywhere that a problem is reported.

In another initiative, the "juvenile nuisance register" has been reinstated at Barnoldswick Police Station.

If a young person's name appears more than once on the register, a letter will automatically be sent to his or her parents. The names of all those youths spoken to last weekend are already on the register.

In most cases, said Sgt Henderson, parents were genuinely surprised and upset to learn what their children had been up to, and quick to impose their own punishments. In just a few cases they were well aware of their children's bad behaviour and just didn't care, some even supplying the drink. But those parents could, and would, be brought to account for the nuisance caused by their children.

Even by Saturday night, officers noticed a marked reduction in the number of young people out drinking on the streets and causing problems.

Anyone experiencing problems can call in at Barnoldswick Police Station or telephone 01282 425001 and ask to be put through to Barnoldswick.

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