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The Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police has written to Heart after an incident he witnessed involving a group of teenagers in Melksham.
On Friday 21st January 2011 at about 8.30pm, I was on patrol with other police officers in Melksham when I saw a small group of teenagers in a quiet side street off the main road. We went over to them for a chat, given earlier in the day we had hosted an event for young people at Police Headquarters.
My colleague and I were surprised to find a much larger group of around 30 to 40 children aged 13 to 15 years round the corner from the smaller group. All were noisy and most well behaved, but some were considerably more aggressive in their tone and actions. I could smell alcohol as I mingled amongst them. So far this was nothing remarkably out of the ordinary for the police,
but as we honed in on the more aggressive element, I learned that that the whole group had assembled because they had been using social media and phone texts to communicate that one of the girls had threatened to stab another girl - and everyone wanted to see what was going to happen.
We quickly identified the alleged female aggressor and removed her and her brother – who remonstrated that he was only there to protect her – away from the group. Over the next hour and a half, all our available resources in the area were directed towards monitoring this group and shepherding them away from the main roads and residential streets. A section broke away to fight amongst themselves, which we broke up before things got out of hand. Above the screeching voices and other juvenile dramatics I kept wondering whether their parents knew where they were and how they were behaving.
Despite many warnings and strong advice to go home, it became necessary to arrest one young person for being drunk and disorderly. Everyone there whom I spoke to claimed to be on a ‘sleep over’ and it was clear that many parents simply did not know where their child was or what he or she was doing.
I pose this question about parental supervision not to accuse but to raise the issues. Through your organisation perhaps a debate can be stimulated. As a father myself I know that trusting our children is important, but surely supervising them is essential.