Somewhere warm with WiFi

Sheila Weber of the Barnsley Chronicle joined a councillor and a Police special sergeant on an evening patrol.

I joined Cllr Greenhough and Special Sgt Tom Burns on an evening patrol to assess the situation with local youngsters who are often criticised for unruly behaviour and drug-taking. 
Setting off from the police station we aimed for places young people are known to gather. But as we left, Sgt Burns made dear: "Generally, they are very good kids in Penistone. People don't realise how lucky they are compared to other areas." 
We start with the skate park. There is a small group and one or two scoot as we approach. 
Coun Greenhough asks if they think there is enough for them to do. No, is the answer. "We just sit outside Tesco a lot of the time." said one lad. 
Cllr Greenhough told them: "There could be pots of money coming our way if we can find a use for it' 
The lad said; "We want somewhere where we won't be told to move on.
A youth club which meets at the community centre was considered 'too childish'. "No-one would go," said one girl.

Next it's the Market Barn, frequently cited at meetings between police and community as a problem area. It is quiet.

We move on to the Trans Pennine Trail near the community centre. 
A large group is gathered there and Coun Greenhough asks what they think of Penistone. An unprintable response provokes laughter. They say the youth club, which meets Wednesdays and Thursdays, has nothing to offer. "So what is on your wish list?" asked Coun Greenhough.
“ A shelter with wi-fi and possibly heating. , It's not always warm. That is all we want. We used to go to the Market Barn when it had wi-fl. There was nowhere else to go."
 "Go there then," said Coun Greenhough. "Just take responsibility for it and don't make a mess or cause trouble." 
Sgt Burns likes the idea of a heated shelter. "Why not?"  he said. The teenager added: "They say we are anti-social, but if you come and talk to us we are okay.
 Don't be intimidated by us." 
"That is the right approach," said Coun Greenhough. 

The rail station is empty. Sgt Burns says a heater was removed from a shelter on the platform after damage. 

Lastly we go to what is known as the `fire pit' off Manchester Road. Again it is empty. But the remote area has a large crater.
'This is a remote area where anything could happen, but l have gone through items left here and have never found any trace of hard drugs or needles. The environmental firm Twiggs have also told me they have never found any evidence of drugs in all the areas where they have been clearing up. "Kids have to go somewhere and if they are not hurting anyone I have no problem with them congregating somewhere like this." 

Later, Cllr Greenhough said the patrol had highlighted the fact that people's perception of Penistone against the reality are two very different things',

"The young people we met were pleasant and engaging and there was no sign of anti-social behaviour at all," he said. "It spells out that people like Penistone because it is a nice area and the youth are part of that." 
He said as part of the upcoming Principal Towns Initiative there are things councillors and other agencies should be able to do. "A chunk of this money should be going to young people's initiatives encouraging them to be part of the community rather than separate to it," he said. "They are residents too." And he said there will be more such patrols. "I am looking to repeat this in the autumn and keep it as an ongoing thing," he said. "We need constant engagement and I am keen to talk to as many young people as I can. But it is a multi-agency thing too with organisations like Penistone Grammar School keen to get on board."

From Barnsley Chronicle Living August 23, no online link available


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