Police and other agencies such as social services and education are to hold a summit meeting in Wellington later this week to discuss the youngsters at the heart of the violent incidents in the town park on a quiet Sunday last month.
A brawl erupted when police officers began to search and arrest young people who were taking drugs and misbehaving in the park. Kicks and punches were thrown and arrests made.
“We’re going to be talking about the children involved in detail to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Sgt Stuart Williams told town councillors. “It’s about making sure we don’t have a similar problem coming through again next year.”
He explained the difficulties of taking young people under 16 through the Youth Offender system to one or two sceptical councillors who felt the law was being too soft on violent criminal behaviour. PC Jo Jeffries, who was herself roughed dealing the incident, shared some of their frustrations.
“We want this to have repercussions for these kids but it’s hard to punish children of only 12 or 13,” she said. “We want them punished and it’s extremely frustrating that we can’t get them in front of a magistrate
“There is an element in this group where they been through the Young Offender system, been on all sorts of courses, but they are still offending.”
Since the events in the park there has been a much larger police presence in the town with several late shift officers coming into the town almost every evening. “This is a priority for us but I do want to stress that Wellington is still a very safe town,” said Sgt Williams.
“The thin blue line is extremely thin in Wellington,” commented Cllr Andy Govier. “We’ve got a number of young people who are serious repeat offenders. But there has to be a community solution to this as well a police solution.”