Neighbourhood police in Hartcliffe say they are engaging with children involved in antisocial behaviour in and around Morrisons supermarket - and have also appealed for support from parents.
For several years, particularly during the winter months, groups of youths have congregated at the store in Peterson Square and caused problems with reports of thefts, criminal damage and intimidation of shoppers and staff.
This year, the neighbourhood police team for Hartcliffe and Withywood made the issue a priority with officers now patrolling the area on every shift and encouraging businesses and the public to report any antisocial behaviour.
The team, headed by Inspector Chris Green, is also looking at funding for more activities for children in the area, and will be glad when the BMX track at Willmott Park opens this week.
In an interview with BristolWorld, Insp Green also said it was important not to treat the young people like criminals, but to engage with them while also reminding parents of their responsibilities.
He said: “We are trying not to be the people sending letters home to parents, saying your child is doing x y and z - it is about engaging with people and making sure those children are part of the conversation as well.
“We have dispersal zones that we have used in the past where we take people home, and we reserve the right to do that.
“We want to ensure the interactions with children are positive and not negative.”
He added: “Alot of these local children have been taken home and it has been highlighted to their parents that they’ve engaged with antisocial behaviour so I think we need to remind parents of their parental responsibilities and knowing where their children are, that’s really important.
“Local people feeling intimated in unacceptable and we take these reports seriously.”
PCSO Becky Timpson is one of the neighbourhood team who regularly patrols Peterson Square.
She said the children involved in the antisocial behaviour were aged from nine to 15, and mostly boys.
She said work with Morrisons, including encouraging staff to report incidents, had led to 15 call-outs in January - but so far this month there had been just two, a reduction she believes is down to the increase in patrols.
She said: “Morrisons is the only large store in Hartcliffe, and alot of people in Hartcliffe don’t really want to go to other stores - they want to be able to shop where they live and so its having a massive impact.
“People trying to shop.... they want to go in and get their stuff and they don’t want to be harassed as they are going in. It is making Hartcliffe look bad, and I don’t think that’s fair on the town either.”
She added that Morrisons and the surrounding stores had noticed a ‘massive difference’ since police patrols had been stepped in the area.
In a statement, the supermarket said: “We do not tolerate any form of antisocial behaviour in our stores and are working closely with the Avon and Somerset Police to ensure the safety of our customers and colleagues.”
The neighbourhood policing team wants anyone who sees antisocial behaviour to report it by calling 101 - they can also report it anonymously.