Terror at new thugs’ spree

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RAMPAGING youth gangs wreaking havoc in a Wigan community have sparked fears of a return of more anti-social behaviour problems.

Residents reported dozens of youngsters had gathered in Ashton town centre on Bonfire Night throwing missiles and targeting passers-by.

Meanwhile, concerns have been raised that trouble has returned to nearby Jubilee Park, the scene of violent outbreaks last year.

Authorities lifted a dispersal order covering various areas of Ashton earlier this year although residents are now calling for it to be reinstated.

A startled onlooker told the Evening Post a group of 100 had gathered on Gerard Street on Wednesday evening.

The resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “There were two police vehicles there, it seemed like a stand-off situation.

“I was driving through and thought, ‘I need to get out of here, it’s going to get out of hand.’ I would say there was about 100 of them, aged between 15 and 18.”

Greater Manchester Police said officers had attended to reports fireworks being thrown. However, no arrests were made after the youths dispersed when the police had arrived.

Chair of Ashton Residents Association (ARA) Michael Moulding said his group had been receiving increasing numbers of reports of anti-social behaviour (ASB) in recent weeks.

He said: “It’s a minority of children but enough to cause major problems for residents. Its gone on long enough, year after year, at the same time of the year, when these problems get worse.”

Resident and ARA member Eamonn Gallagher wrote to GMP last week about problems returning to Jubilee Park. He said: “The behaviour on the park in the last week, with 20 or 30 youths throwing fireworks, bangers and eggs, was as bad as I’ve seen. And it was this time last year when the major trouble started.

“I don’t know what the new craze is but there are huge lumps of turf at the foot of my window sills this morning, this is also what they are throwing, my daughter was frightened so much so that I had to take her up to bed and sit with her.”

Authorities lifted dispersal orders - which give officers powers to move on groups of two or more from a designated area - earlier this year because of a fall in reported incidents.

At a public meeting in Ashton in September, GMP officers urged residents to report ASB as it was the only way the force would be able to tackle any outbreaks.

Ashton ward Labour representative Nigel Ash said: “If residents are concerned about anti-social behaviour in Ashton town centre then I together with the other Ashton councillors will be happy to meet with them to discuss their specific concerns as we have done successfully in the past.

“If we feel that new measures need to be taken to combat any increase in anti social behaviour then we will be discussing this with the local police and local council officials.”

Coun Gary Wilkes, who represents Bryn ward for Wigan Independent Network said: “I have been contacted by residents recently, there is an underlying problem with gangs at the moment in Bryn and Ashton.

“Residents are feeling intimidated and I have written to GMP about their concerns.”