Birds' eye view: Has the St Albans bubble burst on our teens?

Are police doing enough to protect teenagers in Verulamium Park?

Are police doing enough to protect teenagers in Verulamium Park? - Credit: Alan Davies

My heart broke for the mother of a 15-year-old boy who was viciously attacked in Verulamium Park a couple of weeks ago.

He was, she said on social media “repeatedly kicked in the head by this gang of 10”. This paper reported her as saying "he was lucky he didn't sustain life-threatening injuries from so much trauma to his head."

It wasn’t at the dead of night; it wasn’t after the pubs had kicked out. It was 4.30pm on a Monday afternoon for God’s sake. He should have been safe. He wasn’t.

I thought back to a short while ago to when my kids were 15. It’s a hard enough time for a young person.

Perhaps the hardest age of all for a boy: not a child anymore, and desperately wanting independence and respect, yet not quite an adult. It’s a delicate age emotionally, as he transitions into adulthood, putting a brave (Clearasil-covered) face on many situations when his inner self is trembling.

As parents we, figuratively, put our protective arms around him as he takes those first steps into adulthood as we once did literally when the stabilisers came off his bike.

But it will be fine; we are in the St Albans ‘bubble’ - we came here to give the children a lovely safe place in which to grow up.

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And then 20 Nike Air-force trainers, worn by boys two or three years older than him, come smashing into his head repeatedly. And his childhood is over. The fledgling adult confidence he was developing is as shattered as his face. The St Albans bubble is burst.

And this is not an isolated incident. A few months ago this paper reported that a man was found guilty in the courts of the attempted rape of a 13 year old girl on the Alban Way. The local social media channels are full of distressed and desperate parents sharing stories of violent acts against their teenagers.

But the police will catch the ten dangerous park thugs, and stop them doing this again to someone else, surely? Apparently no. They haven’t yet. Whaaaaaat??! How can we have enough electronic surveillance in this country to collectively watch the grim home movie of Matt Hancock snogging his advisor in a closed government office, but we can’t identify 10 individuals who committed a violent act of battery and assault in broad daylight in a public park? It’s unbelievable. And unacceptable.

In St Albans, nothing gets the emotion going as much as street closures or market changes or parking. So I ask, can the people of this city please harness the passion that boils over when discussing traffic, and unleash it on this issue – the issue of our children’s safety?

We pay over half a million quid for a bog standard house here – surely for that they can keep our kids safe, not just give us good transport links? What is the point in parents moving heaven and earth to get little Johnny into the ‘right’ school if he can’t go out in the afternoon to the park without getting his head kicked in?

Obviously – this is a nationwide issue. Since 2015 murders in London have increased by 17 per cent; crimes involving a blade have increased by 10%; incidents of rape by a truly terrifying 13 per cent. But make no mistake – it is an issue that is now here, in our lovely historic market town. It’s time to take action: write to the local MP, the council. Be vocal; be passionate; be angry!

Schools break up this month. Our teenagers will be in the park a lot, and at night too – it’s their social stomping ground, especially in these Covid times. It needs to be monitored, policed, SAFE. They deserve to be protected. They are a lot more important than road closures… aren’t they?