Police have issued 15 warning letters to children in front of their parents in the last 10 days in a bid to crack down on a spate of anti-social behaviour in an Easter Ross town.
Area Inspector Jamie Wilson said the behaviour of a gang of youths in Invergordon, aged between 12 and 15, has reached “unacceptable levels” over the past fortnight.
And he revealed that calls from “tormented” residents have doubled in the last week following an upsurge in stone throwing at homes, vandalism to cars and disturbances in the town’s High Street.
Inspector Wilson said police patrols have been ramped up, with flexible policing and operational support units – including plain clothes officers, road policing officers and the dog unit – also on alert.
Insp Wilson said: “It’s a very small hardcore group within a group that are leading normally respectful, law abiding children astray. There is a small contingent within the group. They are the poison and we want to stop that spread of poison.”
Insp Wilson stressed that it is now up to the parents to support police in making sure they know where their child is at night, who they are with and what they are doing.
He said the 15 warning letters, all issued to children in front of their parents, are the first step in a “three strike” process which ends in a child being charged.
But he warned yesterday that the children who have responded negatively to these letters have already been charged.
Insp Wilson said that officers would usually speak to youths about their behaviour in the past, but believes it has now reached a point where they must take “robust action.”
He added: “The softly softly approach is no longer working.
“There have been incidents of egg-throwing and stone-throwing and old people have been tormented. People are scared. We had cars damaged a couple of weeks ago as well.
“This problem has peaked in Invergordon and it’s worse than it has been. The behaviour has reached unacceptable and excessive levels and we are pulling out all the stops.”
Insp Wilson said the CCTV in Invergordon High Street has also been instrumental in assisting their inquiries.
And he also said officers are speaking to support workers at schools, as well as volunteers at a local youth club, to get the message across to children of the misery they are causing people, in the hope of influencing them down the right path.
Cromarty Firth councillor Maxine Smith believes the problems started last summer when children began vandalising equipment at a reinstated play park in Caberfeidh Drive.
Ms Smith said she highlighted her concerns with headteachers in the primary and secondary schools.
She said: “I know this spate of vandalism and criminal behaviour from youngsters has terrified some residents and this is unacceptable.
“These are a few youngsters who are bringing down the tone of the whole town and it’s not fair. It’s not fair to other decent children and not fair to the people who have become their victims.
“The police have realised it is high priority and hopefully it will be stopped.”
Anyone with information about anti-social behaviour incidents should contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
“It’s a nice area and people are quite friendly but if it makes it safer then its good.”
Vicki Sutherland, 25, a student from Invergordon
“There is anti-social behaviour in Invergordon, particularly when it’s the School holidays. It’s normally about them getting wound up. A couple of incidents have involved them having far too much to drink. There is a drug and alcohol problem in Invergordon and it’s good to see the police are stepping up with their partners.”
Kirsteen Currie, Sutherland area councillor.
“They are kicking the windows of the shops and the bus shelter and all the bins get kicked over in the streets. There is rubbish down the whole street; cans, bottles, pizzas and curries and people have to go and clean it up. It’s a disgrace. Something has to be done soon or it will be too late.”
Billy Kinghorn, 55, a community worker from Invergordon.
“I live in the flats and we have had the police round a few times. When I was younger people just didn’t do it. I have often said we need to see more police in the town and all over. They do a good job.”
William MacKay, 84, retired from Invergordon