Secret world of gang culture in St Albans

Gangs have been gathering after dark in Clarence Park, St Albans. Picture: Matt Adams

Gangs have been gathering after dark in Clarence Park, St Albans. Picture: Matt Adams - Credit: Archant

A fast evolving underworld of gang crime is taking over Clarence Park, the Herts Advertiser can reveal.

Gangs have been gathering after dark in Clarence Park, St Albans. Picture: Matt Adams

Gangs have been gathering after dark in Clarence Park, St Albans. Picture: Matt Adams - Credit: Archant

A police document has revealed a problematic gang culture operating in this part of St Albans, and an emergency neighbourhood meeting was held this week to address the issue.

A community protection warning issued this month to several teenagers in the area is a written police instruction to seven teenage boys not to enter or attempt to enter Clarence Park, the Alban Way, Queens Court and St Pauls Place on Hatfield Road and Granville Road. Nor are the seven allowed to be associated in public with each other.

Additionally, the police state that those seven young men must not be seen in a group of more than three people without a parent or guardian.

If they break any of the stipulated conditions, including carrying out anti-social behaviour, further police action will be taken which could include a court order.

A public meeting held on Tuesday evening was attended by the Chief Inspector of police for the St Albans district and representatives from Herts Crimestoppers and community protection and community services.

Fearful residents were given the opportunity to find out what action is being taken to make the park and surrounding streets safer. They were told what practical steps need to be taken to combat the trend of violent crime, such as enhanced street lighting and CCTV surveillance.

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The meeting follows a spate of recent violent incidents in this part of the city. These include a man being attacked by young people on nearby Granville Road on January 2, in which he received lacerations to his head requiring stitches.

A neighbouring resident, who does not want to be named out of fear for his safety, said he heard loud screams from the victim at approximately 9.20pm: "It just came out of nowhere. It sounded like someone was being chased. I didn't expect to hear that sort of thing on my doorstep."

Safer Neighbourhood Team Inspector Andy Wiseman said: "We are aware of issues with young people congregating and committing anti-social behaviour in Clarence Park and the surrounding area. My team works hard day and night to tackle this problem. We frequently patrol the area and liaise with the local authority CCTV control room.

"We work with local schools to teach pupils about the dangers of knife crime and gangs and help deter them from becoming involved in such behaviour. Our strong links with local schools mean that we can often easily identify those who are involved in anti-social behaviour and we take firm but fair action, including putting in safeguarding measures for those who are considered vulnerable. This work is ongoing and I would urge the public to help us by reporting any suspicions or concerns via the non-emergency number 101. If a crime is in progress or someone's life is in danger, call 999 straight away."

St Albans council leader Chris White said: "We are actively supporting the police in its attempts to put an end to a spate of anti-social and criminal behaviour in the vicinity of Clarence Park.

"Our community protection and parks teams have been helping them."

"We have already improved CCTV coverage of the area so we can better monitor activities and collect evidence for the police to use against any offenders. We have also persuaded the county council to repair around 16 defective street lights in the area.

"I can assure residents that criminal behaviour will not be tolerated in any part of St Albans and we will continue to support the police in whatever way we can.

"We want to ensure our streets and neighbourhoods remain safe and that any offenders are vigorously pursued and brought before the courts."

A former Clarence Park ranger, who does not wish to be named, said there are always teenagers smoking cannabis in the park's public toilets.