A group of furious Wigan residents are demanding action after being plagued by marauding gangs of youths.
Fences have been kicked in, car wing mirrors snapped off, paint flung around, bottles and cans thrown and Christmas decorations trashed in an orgy of violence against householders on Ravenswood Avenue, Winstanley.
At my house alone I have three fence panels kicked in at the side of the house, two wheelie bins stolen, my car was broken into, three wing mirrors kicked off, coping stones taken off our wall and smashed and the Christmas decorations ripped off and thrown back at the houseShaun Hilton
They lay the blame at up to 20 youngsters who come from a long way away to use their street and say that an alleyway is making it a magnet for the trouble-makers.
Father-of-three Shaune Hilton says that he and other locals have been calling on the council to gate off the ginnel, which is a cut-through to Foundry Lane, but they have so far refused to do so.
Some of the yobs were caught on CCTV tearing up festive garden illuminations only the other day and Mr Hilton says that the “nightmare,” which has been going on for several years, has cost him thousands of pounds already.
He said: “We are at our wits’ end. These youngsters are causing mayhem and making people’s lives a misery.
“Sometimes there is just a couple of them, sometimes there are 20 to 30, aged between 12 and 16 and they aren’t local.
“At my house alone I have three fence panels kicked in at the side of the house, two wheelie bins stolen, my car was broken into, three wing mirrors kicked off, coping stones taken off our wall and smashed and the Christmas decorations ripped off and thrown back at the house.
“If it was just us I might think I had done something to upset them but many other residents have been affected. The people across the road have had fence panels smashed too. They have young kids and these yobs have thrown cans, bottles and condoms into their garden. People further up the road had their garden trashed.
“It has cost me thousands one way or another. I got rid of my front garden to put a drive in to get the car off the road and then we have had to replace fence panels and carry out car repairs.
“And the root of the problem is the alleyway. Time and again we have gone to the council asking them to do something about it. We wanted it gated. I would like to bet people would be prepared to help pay for it, but the authority refuses.
“They put a lamppost there to light it better but that just gave the youngsters somewhere better to congregate. They are brazen. One was arrested the other day for biting a police officer.”
The youths have become a serious problem for residents of Ravenswood Avenue and police have been called repeatedly.
Neighbour Charlotte Molyneux has experienced problems intermittently for years, but says it has become worse since the lamppost was erected.
She said: “They put the new light up about three months ago. It used to be pitch black and you couldn’t see anything.
“They come back every weekend. They have kicked our fence panel in.”
She said the gang had also stolen her wheelie bin and she is worried about her two-year-old nephew playing in the garden, as he feels intimidated.
Miss Molyneux wants police to step up patrols in the alley and the surrounding area.
She said: “Something needs to be done. A lot of the neighbours wanted it shutting but I don’t because I walk through there to get to work. It’s a shortcut to get to Pemberton.”
Another neighbour, who asked not to be identified, said: “It’s an absolute nightmare. It’s been going on, on and off, for years.”
She said a wing mirror was knocked off a family member’s car and she believed the group were drinking alcohol, taking drugs and even carrying weapons.
And she even cancelled plans to go out at the weekend as she was so worried about what would happen while she was not there.
She said: “We are dreading this weekend. It’s horrible.”
There have been several petitions over the years calling for the alley to be closed, but they were unsuccessful.
She now wants the alley to be gated so that it cannot be used at night and would even be willing to lock and unlock it each day.
She said: “All we want is a gate. They won’t close it fully, but we want a gate there.”
Neighbour Peter Sullivan wants the alley to be closed to stop the group descending on the street.
He said: “It’s mostly the youths as they are coming through shouting, screaming, smashing bottles. When they are drunk, there are kids lying on my drive and they can’t even walk.
“They are only youngsters some of them and some are 20 odd.”
He said the situation was “getting everybody down” as it happened every weekend.
“I do like it round here, it’s nice and quiet in the week, but at weekends it’s not a nice place to be,” he said.
Will Blandamer, Wigan Council’s assistant director for reform and partnerships, said: “We are continuing to work with our colleagues from Greater Manchester Police to deal with issues relating to anti-social behaviour from youths in the Winstanley area and are carrying out a number of joint operations over the next few weeks.
“There will be an increased presence in the area and we will work hard to determine who is responsible for this behaviour and the criminal damage, and we will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action if we are able to identify those involved.
“At our Have Your Say session last month as part of the Deal in Action we received requests to install CCTV in the precinct area.
“We are pleased that this is now installed and provides CCTV coverage at the precinct linked directly to our central watch CCTV control room.
“We believe this will provide greater reassurance for residents and businesses and that any anti-social behaviour in this area will be detected, the culprits identified and dealt with accordingly.”
The authority says that the alleyway referred to is a well-used route to school with a high footfall, as well as being a public right of way and therefore the council would not be able to restrict access. Residents have been notified of this.
Insp Ian Arrowsmith of GMP’s Wigan Division said: “We take all reports of anti-social behaviour extremely serious and we work alongside the Wigan Council Anti-Social Behaviour Team to deal with issues relating to ASB from youths in the Winstanley area.
“As well as recent CCTV work that we have carried out, residents in Winstanley may notice an increased police presence over the coming weeks as we have a number of joint operations on-going to tackle this issue. I would also appeal to parents too because it may be your children that are involved in these incidents. Ask yourself this question, “ Where is my son or daughter tonight?”
“If we identify those responsible for ASB, then we will not hesitate to take appropriate action and I would urge anybody who witnesses this type of behaviour to report it to police.”