Welwyn Hatfield youth speak out about antisocial behaviour

PUBLISHED: 16:23 17 January 2019

McDonalds in Welwyn Garden City town centre. Picture Danny Loo

McDonalds in Welwyn Garden City town centre. Picture Danny Loo

©2018 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved

After talking to over 2,200 young people in Welwyn Hatfield about antisocial behaviour and youth crime, the YMCA has recommended an increase in free youth activities.

Woodhall Shops antisocial behaviourWoodhall Shops antisocial behaviour

Police have had to step up their efforts in response to a spike in the problem behaviours in recent weeks.

READ MORE: Police intensify efforts to tackle antisocial behaviour in Welwyn Garden City

Yet a recently published YMCA survey of over 2,200 young people, which was commissioned by Welwyn Hatfield Council, says that less than a third of young people said there was enough going on locally to keep them occupied.

Across the whole borough, there are just 39 free youth activities per week across all age ranges and areas.

Paid-for activities outnumber free ones by four to one.

Overall, the report found that youth antisocial behaviour (ASB) happens most on a Saturday, where there are just three free sessions of youth activities across the area.

Another finding of the report said “there is a high correlation between the session finish times and ASB, with two thirds of sessions ending during the height of the peak time for ASB.

“It is well known that young people may not stay until the end of the sessions.”

Out of those surveyed, 109 young people admitted to carrying a weapon, and 22 per cent have socialised with other young people carrying a weapon.

Just under a quarter admitted to having behaved antisocially.

Those who had carried a weapon felt more strongly than others about there not being enough youth activities

They also had levels of wellbeing around 15 per cent lower than their peers, according to the report.

Wellbeing is measured by asking young people to rate 18 statements about how they feel, such as “feeling loved”, “dealing with problems well”, and “feeling interested in others”.

In response to these findings, the report recommends that free youth activities be established in the Woodhall area, which has long been an ASB hotspot, along with Peartree and central WGC where there are already free activities.

Liberal Democrat councillor Malcolm Cowan, who represents Peartree and Woodhall, said: “This absolutely backs up what we have been saying to council officers, that there must be a much larger range of activities available to young people.

“The fact that Woodhall is a black hole for free youth activities and has suffered ASB, now we are told thankfully reducing, is no coincidence.

“The council must ensure it ups its game, working with youth providers in the area. We have waited more than long enough.”

A council spokesperson described numerous projects to engage young people, and said: “The council continues to work hard directly with Hertfordshire Police and as a member ... of the Welwyn Hatfield Community Safety Partnership, on many projects to engage young people and keep them safe.

“Work has been ongoing in specific areas of the borough such as Woodhall, to remove the physical mechanisms facilitating ASB, including easy access to the flats and the roof, and the addition of CCTV, we’re but also in setting up far-reaching projects.

“A recent example is the Positive Pathways project, which helps young people who have got involved in, or are at risk of getting involved in anti-social activities.

“Positive Pathways works with them and their families to steer them onto the right path, through sign-posting services and encouraging their potential through development opportunities.

“We launched a new project at the end of 2018 at KGV Pavilion and KGV Skate Park on a Friday between 4pm and 6pm with YC Herts.

Chair of Welwyn Hatfield’s Youth Council, 14-year-old George, agreed there were many youth activities in the borough that the council works hard to promote, and commented: “It’s really sad to see a small minority of young people behaving in a way which is causing nuisance in the community.”

Last year, motivational speaker Paul Hannaford visited Welwyn Hatfield secondary schools to talk about the impact of gangs and weapons.

“Hearing from someone who has made bad choices and suffered the consequences was really hard-hitting,” said George.

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