Firecrackers thrown at baby's buggy in Fenland park
Anti-social behaviour and vandalism are out of control in a Fenland town according to one mum whose young son was verbally abused while firecrackers were thrown at her baby's buggy.
The woman, who didn't want to be named, was forced to call 999 on Sunday afternoon after the firecrackers' incident at the Wenny Road Rec left her with two crying children and fear of what might happen next.
She refuted police claims that a recent dispersal order imposed over large swathes of the town centre for four days last month in a bid to put a stop to anti-social behaviour was a success and said the situation was worse if anything.
Sunday's incident happened at around 2.30pm as the woman played with her four-year-old son while her one-year-old was sleeping in his buggy.
She said: "There was a gang of youths probably aged 11 to 14 hanging around on the swings when we got there - there were boys and girls and they were messing around and swearing.
"My son wanted to go on the swings so went and asked if he could have a go, but they just started making vulgar noises at him, laughing at him and swearing. My son was bemused and just looked at them, he couldn't understand what was going on.
"I asked them what they thought they were doing and pointed out he was only four, they just laughed at me and swore. Eventually they moved off to the zip wire and started throwing it about trying to break it by all climbing on it.
"But my son was able to get on the swing and he made a comment about it being good that I had told them off. I think this just wound them up a bit more, and then when he finished he turned to them said 'you can have another go now' to the youths, which led to more vulgar noises and laughing.
"I began to feel really uneasy, I was sat on the bench rocking my baby to sleep when one of them let off a fire cracker a bit of a distance from us. I think it was a bit of a test, because the next thing I know two of the youths are running towards me and throwing firecrackers at my buggy. Fortunately they hit the ground, but it could have had terrible consequences if one had landed in the pushchair.
"The baby screaming because of the loud bangs and Nathan was crying and I just tried to get out of there as quickly as possible. Once out of the park I messaged the police and was told to ring 999, the officers came pretty fast, but the youths had followed us out and my son had said 'mummy is calling the police' - so they all just scarpered on their bikes and scooters and had disappeared by the time the police arrived.
"When I asked about CCTV one officer said the camera in the park wasn't working and the other said it was covered by trees - but there are no trees near it.
"If someone was monitoring the cameras then surely they would have alerted the police to the behaviour of this gang, I know I would have, even if it was just so someone could have a word with them and move them along.
"The whole thing has left me really shaken and unable to sleep. The weekend seems to have been really bad for vandalism and anti-social behaviour, shops have had their windows broken - it just seems the young people feel invincible - that they can get away with whatever they like because there is no one to stop them.
"I have lived in Chatteris most of my life and I have never known anything like this, it is really scary what is happening and I don't want to take my son to the park, which he really loves, because what happened at the weekend has really shaken me up."
A police spokesperson said: "We received a number of reports of anti-social behaviour in Chatteris over the weekend.
"Incidents involved paint being thrown over driveways and firecrackers being thrown in Wenny Park.
"We are aware of the disruption this behaviour is having on local residents and neighbourhood officers are working to reduce and tackle offending in the area.
"This includes reviewing both private and council CCTV recordings and making enquiries to identify those responsible.
"We will take action by using any anti-social behaviour and criminal legislation available to us and we would urge anyone who experiences any issues, or is aware of who is responsible, to report it to us via 999 in an emergency or 101 or web-chat."