Welwyn Garden City workers speak out about abusive youths

PUBLISHED: 18:29 09 February 2018 | UPDATED: 18:29 09 February 2018

Woodhall shops. Picture: Danny Loo

Woodhall shops. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2018

Fearful shopkeepers and staff in Woodhall, Welwyn Garden City, have spoken out about the racial, homophobic and "vile" sexual remarks they have been receiving from youths hanging around the area.

Woodhall Parade. Picture: Danny LooWoodhall Parade. Picture: Danny Loo

Police have been tackling the growing problem of antisocial behaviour with Operation Hade.

On Tuesday night, they took down the names of a number of young people and reported them to the council’s anti-social behaviour team.

Several 14-year-olds were also escorted home.

Director of Woodhall-based Welwyn Garden City DIY Jassi Singh Bajaja, 25, told the Welwyn Hatfield Times how he had been verbally abused by youths and lost £2,000 in cash during a burglary last month.

Woodhall shops. Picture: Danny LooWoodhall shops. Picture: Danny Loo

He said: “It’s affecting our business because they come in my store and scream and swear at me but I’m not scared to tell them to get out.”

The store has new security cameras installed and devices to protect stock which was also being stolen.

Mr Bajaja also said that teenagers had knocked over and emptied bins out the back of the shops in order to climb on the roofs.

A number of shops on the parade wished to share their comments but asked to remain anonymous over fears that their stores would be targeted - all said antisocial behaviour was affecting their businesses.

Sylvia Bishop. Picture: WHT.Sylvia Bishop. Picture: WHT.

One worker said she had witnessed the youths racially abusing staff members and claims that a member of her staff was a victim of homophobic remarks.

Workers expressed how much they dread the half term due to children hanging around outside their shops causing mischief all day as well as at night.

“It’s so intimidating when you nip out to get your lunch,” said one retail assistant.

Women employees have even been subjected to sexually charged abuse by the youngsters.

Mr Parker. Picture: WHT.Mr Parker. Picture: WHT.

“They shout vile inappropriate things while putting their hands down their trousers.”

Another shop worker claimed to have had the teens walk into their store while smoking.

The shops and surrounding areas have been a “troubled area” for over a decade, said one resident.

Sylvia Bishop, who has lived in the Woodhall area for 17 years, emphasised that the problem needs to be handled quickly to avoid the area turning into a “black spot”.

Woodhall shops. Picture: Danny LooWoodhall shops. Picture: Danny Loo

Police have been working to tackle the problem for some time and the Welwyn Hatfield Times reported back in August 2016 how disperal notices were put in place to deal.

Officers also regularly tweet about the work they are doing to stamp out antisocial behaviour.

Sylvia, 67, added: “It’s reassuring to see all these updates from the police.

“I only come here [parade of shops] during the day, I wouldn’t feel safe at night.”

Pensioners, who wished not to be named, shared their fears of walking around in the dark and feeling intimidated by “huge groups of kids”.

One couple who live in the area said: “It needs to go back to the old days where the coppers could give them a slap - that will teach them respect.”

Mr Parker, 52, from the Woodhall area, often goes to the shops on his lunch break and described the majority of youths who hang around as being between the ages of 12 and 18.

He said: “The police don’t act or do anything until something major happens.

“The problem needs to be stopped before something like that happens.”

Sergeant Stephen Hynes reassured that the police will be putting “pressure” on to make the area a safe place, especially during the upcoming holidays.

Mr Hynes also arranged for a dispersal order which is now in place and can be renewed anytime.

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