CANFORD Heath residents who have been terrorised by a large gang of youths this summer were able to voice their concerns at a packed public drop-in event.

The meeting, organised by Michael Tomlinson, MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole, brought together local police, councillors, and youth and housing services to address the issues with anti-social behaviour (ASB) in the community.

A group of around 20 youths, some as young as 12, have been intimidating members of the public on a daily basis since the start of summer.

Some people have been physically assaulted, sworn or spat at, while shops in Adastral Square have experienced thefts.

As reported previously in the Daily Echo, Limelights youth centre was vandalised three times in a week.

Speaking to the Daily Echo at the meeting on Monday, Inspector Adrian Thompson said children from all over Dorset had been joining the gang targeting Canford Heath.

“We have seen a slight change in the way ASB occurs this year over other years whereby it’s far more mobile. The group from Canford Heath aren’t just Canford Heath kids, they’re from across Poole – some are from Bournemouth, Blandford and Verwood.”

He said police had been running Operation Force over the last few weeks, which has involved officers in a van driving around and dealing with ASB.

“That’s had quite a positive impact on the level of crime we’ve had and the level of ASB.

“It’s a handful of children causing issues but then they get their friends involved. They are being dealt with. We have used dispersal orders to get rid of groups from the area. We’ve sent kids home to parents, we’ve engaged with the council and closed down a premises which has been causing issues,” he added.

A local volunteer, who did not want to be named for fear of retribution, told the Daily Echo he and other volunteers had faced continual abuse from the gang this summer.

“We had no trouble until the beginning of this summer term. Myself and other volunteers were attacked in Adastral Square. A group of 20 were around us while we were working – it was really intimidating.

“They were swearing and shouting. One of them was in the way of my tools. I asked her to move and the next thing I knew I was on my back as she’d pushed me.

“We’ve had ice lollies thrown at us, we’ve been spat at. We’ve been picking up litter and they’ve been throwing more down.”

He added the situation had improved in the last couple of weeks but he still feared harassment from the group.

Mr Tomlinson stressed the importance of residents reporting incidents to the police.

“My message is do have the confidence as we have an excellent local policing team. Things may not happen straight away and it may not be the response that you think should happen but it helps to build the picture.”

He added: “I’m really pleased with the number of local residents who’ve come along to the meeting. I hope it’s been helpful for residents and reassured them that this is being taken seriously.

“I’ve already asked to see the youth services and I want to go on a patrol with the police as a follow-up.

“It’s coming towards the end of the summer so hopefully these measures which have been taken, for example closing the property, have helped.”