Police carry out walkabout in Sunderland shopping centre

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Police officers took to the streets of Sunderland as part of a campaign to tackle youth anti-social behaviour.

Officers, including Chief Inspector Mark Hall of Northumbria Police, were joined by partners from Gentoo and Sunderland City Council, for a walkabout at Pennywell Shopping Centre, speaking to store owners and the public about tackling escalating problems.

Police joined by representatives from Sunderland Council and Gentoo during the walkabout at Pennywell Shopping Centre.

Police joined by representatives from Sunderland Council and Gentoo during the walkabout at Pennywell Shopping Centre.

Reports of gangs of youths hanging around, thefts from shops and even assaults on security guards are causing huge concerns.

Chief Inspector Hall, said the force is taking the situation very seriously.

He said: “This is affecting people’s quality of lives, particularly those who are vulnerable in our community.”

This is the third time similar walkabouts have taken place in the city, with Houghton and Southwick also being visited by the organisations.

Superintendent Steve Heatley (left) and Chief Inspector Mark Hall.

Superintendent Steve Heatley (left) and Chief Inspector Mark Hall.

The move to carry out these operations comes after weeks of misery for residents reporting growing problems with anti-social bahaviour in their communities.

At one point the situation became so bad in Houghton that bus provider Go North East said it had to divert buses away from a usual route which goes through Houghton town centre.

Police say the main problem in Pennywell is a group of youths hanging around in the shopping area, causing disruption and stealing from the shops.

PC Roger Welsh, the beat manager of the shopping centre area, said: "In the evening we get groups of about 15 young people hanging about and it is quite intimidating for the general public having to walk through them to go into the shops."

Chief Inspector Mark Hall (left) and Superintendent Steve Heatley, chat to people at Pennywell Shops.

Chief Inspector Mark Hall (left) and Superintendent Steve Heatley, chat to people at Pennywell Shops.

He said there have been incidents of stealing and even assaults on security staff.

The policeman said there are two youth clubs in the area and officers try to encourage the youths to attend them and do something more useful with their time.

Inspector Tony Carty, of the Sunderland West division, said it is a very small minority of young people are the ones who cause the problems.

He said: "It is about partnership working and engaging with the youths. We work very closely with Academy 360 and they are really good."

Store owners and customers at Pennywell shops talking with Chief Inspector Mark Hall (left) and Superintendent Steve Heatley.

Store owners and customers at Pennywell shops talking with Chief Inspector Mark Hall (left) and Superintendent Steve Heatley.

The inspector said tackling anti-social behaviour is something a lot of people need to play a part in, including parents, families, schools and the wider community.

He said: "It is everybody's responsibility, not just the police."

Officers say they need the public to report any incidents of anti-social behaviour they witness.