Despairing business owners are prepared to dip into their own pockets to deal with youths hellbent on causing mayhem in Aberdeen city centre.
Police have lifted the lid on their efforts to target anti-social behaviour plaguing the heart of the city.
They say the problem has become so severe that desperate traders are now offering up their own money towards solutions.
And amid concerns the Scottish Government’s free buses scheme is making things worse, they add that 18% of the teenage troublemakers are from outside Aberdeen.
Empty streets led to ‘decreased tolerance to young people’
The lack of footfall into the city centre – which Chief Inspector Darren Bruce says remains an “attractive place for young people” – is also said to amplify issues as groups now “stand out”.
Officers have noticed a “decreased tolerance to young people” and “aggravated prejudice” towards them – although the number of distressed calls has dropped.
A whistleblower recently revealed to us how antisocial behaviour at Union Square has escalated to the point where going to work “feels like going to war”.
One shop was forced to close too, as employees claimed they were often subjected to youths spitting at them, exploding firecrackers and making sexual comments.
And improvised kickboxing matches at Union Terrace Gardens raised further concerns.
Despite issues being all too apparent to visitors to the city centre, public protection convener Miranda Radley said media coverage of the city centre challenges was “maybe not as helpful as it could be”.
Her council committee will quiz cops on anti-social behaviour in Aberdeen on Tuesday.
Complaints about Aberdeen anti-social behaviour have dropped – but more work needs to be done
Police reports show January and May have been the worst months for officers dealing with antisocial behaviour – with the main perpetrators said to be teens aged 14-16.
Calls spiked to 118 during the colder months, while there were 84 complaints in spring.
But police think there is still light at the end of the tunnel.
Since May, the number of complaints about troublemakers has dropped by 42%.
This is compared to a shock rise last year, when reports of antisocial behaviour doubled within 12 months.
What is the solution?
Police and city wardens have launched a “high visibility and robust approach” to Aberdeen city centre anti-social behaviour last year.
The Operation Galaxite crackdown relies on both public call-outs and statistical data to target the problem.
But desperate to keep teens away from trouble, top brass have sought advice from Dundee charity Hot Chocolate.
The group has proved successful at encouraging “good citizenship” by offering youngsters support and guidance.
And police is now looking to take lessons learned and implement more of that in Aberdeen – with some cash aid from city centre businesses.
A UK charity has also expressed an interest to help officers craft their own approach to tackling antisocial behaviour in Aberdeen.
So far, this has involved creating a “safe space” for youngsters at the Tesco in Sheddocksley and informing the parents of those causing issues.