Thursday, 20 December 2007

Downhill days in the park

One of four holes to pavilion ceilings caused by vandals on Monday.

The end of the pavilion where the vandals tore off tiles to gain access (the roof was repaired on Tuesday. I took this picture on Wednesday).

For me it all began Wednesday evening last week at about 4.15pm when two young girls somehow got into the park after I had locked the gates. I asked them to leave and the older girl, about 12 or 13, said "no, it's not dark, I don't see why I have to leave". I pointed out to her that the street lights were on and all the traffic along Derby Road had headlights on and that it would be completely dark in less than five minutes. She still refused and said she had just finished school and she didn't see why the park had to be locked. I tried to explain that it was for security reasons and that she should not be in the park after the dark because no one would be able to see if anything happened to her. The younger girl with her just stood by. I then said the gates were locked so they would have to leave the same way they came in. She then said "I going to phone my mum and the police and tell them what you're trying to do to me". The words had a venomous edge to them and were very unsettling. I left immediately and when I got home I telephoned our local beat police officer and told him what had just happened. I then went back and unlocked the park and there was no sign of the girls.

I haven't locked the park since as I don't want to run the risk of being the victim of vindictive allegations which then have to be investigated. I know from the twenty-one years I worked with vulnerable people just how traumatic foundless allegations can be on the individuals concerned, their families and colleagues. I don't want it to happen to me. I was locking the park because Nottingham City Council's Parks Department had decided not to, even though an unlocked park posed a security risk for a number of reasons. The local beat police officer and others agreed.

On Saturday morning there was a break-in in the park and the police were called and the property had to be boarded up. On Tuesday morning Dave Thompson, the park groundsman, arrived to find the pavilion had been broken into through the roof and the inside trashed. Little had been taken, except for a small amount of petty cash, tea, coffee and an old TV in Dave's rest room. They also broke into the barn. Dave 'phoned and told us, but I couldn't get as we were just leaving home to visit family in the Black Country for the day, so it was yesterday (Wednesday) before I saw the damage for myself.

The holes in the ceilings are quite small, which suggests that it was kids that broke in. They wore gloves and they left greasy marks everywhere as Dave had painted parts of the pavilion with anti-vandal paint. The damage will cost thousands of pounds to repair. After years of having a vandal free park for this to happen it is all very depressing. As far as I am concerned all the events are linked. I piss off a young girl who knows how to threaten adults and leave the park unlocked, then there is a series of break-ins within days. It's all too much to be a coincidence as far as I am concerned.

In the three months or so that I locked the park I only had two problems. The young girl last Wednesday and a group of young teenage boys who crowded me in a threatening manner, but they still left the park. The threat of physical violence is actually easier to deal with than vindictive threats. My neighbours are now locking the park. They are made of tougher stuff than me. The Council has not replied to my email about locking the park at night, as it is something they should be doing. It's about par for the course. Their blinkered indifference to the consequences of their attitude is, on past experience, predictable.

At this moment my wish is to see the culprits caught and punished, although this is unlikely to happen. Even if they are caught they know nothing will really happen to them, so I can well understand why the events of the past week will be a low priority for the authorities. One day they will be eighteen and their uncontrolled past will catch up with them. Then the system will happily lock them up. If only we had the courage to do something when we had the chance, then they might grow up to be better, more responsible, people.

Winston Churchill's great-grandson has been sentenced to three years in an Australian jail for his role in a multimillion-dollar ecstasy racket.

1 comment:

Paul Pursglove said...

I fully sympathise with your problem Robert. It only takes one "bad egg" to spoil a whole basket full. Youngsters with that kind of attitude, in my experiense, do not changed unless the root cause of their problem is addressed effectively. Not much chance of that here! Kindest regards.