Police strike back against youth rioters

Hundreds of youths rioted in Blackpool town centre after the fireworks display.
Hundreds of youths rioted in Blackpool town centre after the fireworks display.
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Police will flood into Blackpool town centre this weekend in a bid to prevent a repeat of the “appalling” riot which left three officers injured.

Around 500 youths were caught up in the latest trouble on Bank Hey Street which saw police pelted with bottles as they tried to break up a fight on Friday night as town was packed with families for the World Fireworks Championships.

Twelve people were arrested – the youngest 13-years-old.

It is understood Friday’s disorder escalated after police attempted to prevent a pre-planned fight between two groups of youths from Blackpool and Preston.

Insp James Martin, of Blackpool Police, said he would be working with local schools to try to avoid a repeat of the terrifying scenes which had families running for cover. Officers could even make use of sweeping stop and search powers as part of a heightened presence this weekend.

Insp Martin said: “There will be a massively increased presence in the town on Friday. There will be a number of different tactics used and a lot of that will be during the week with schools.

“If I had my way we would get one or two teachers out with us from the schools.”

One tactic being considered by police is the use of controversial Section 60 orders, which allow officers to stop and search anybody – even if they do not suspect them of any wrongdoing.

Insp Martin added: “Police will be investigating the disorder and there will be enhanced visibility to make sure the fireworks are safe.”

Police were called to Bank Hey Street and Victoria Street at around 9pm on Friday, with the violence spreading to several other streets nearby.

A 19-year-old Blackpool man has been charged with being drunk and disorderly as well as assaulting a police officer, while a 22-year-old resort woman has been charged with using threatening behaviour and resisting arrest.

Ten others – aged between 13 and 22 – have been released on police bail pending further inquiries.

A Lancashire Police spokesman confirmed three officers received minor injuries during the disturbance but were able to remain on duty.

The trouble followed a mass brawl two weeks earlier, after the first of four fireworks displays. It has sparked fear among traders and residents that families could be deterred from visiting the resort.

Coun Graham Cain, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for tourism and leisure, said: “The free fireworks events attract tens of thousands of decent people and we are saddened a small minority of troublemakers tried to spoil the event with their appalling behaviour.

“We will not tolerate this sort of behaviour in a family resort and we will be speaking to and working with the police in the coming days to ensure this week’s final fireworks event will be a great occasion that families can enjoy.”

Screaming

Det Sgt Mark Dickinson said: “The level of violence is completely unacceptable. It’s understandable that some people might have been left upset or frightened by what they saw.

“We’re keen to track down any people responsible.

“It’s clear some people are coming here with the intent to cause trouble.”

One eye-witness, who did not want to be named, said; “There were families running for cover and kids screaming. There will soon be no families on the Prom.”

A Facebook campaign has now been launched to warn rowdy youngsters they are not welcome in the resort at night.

A post on the Blackpool Shows and Attractions page, which has been shared more than 600 times, said: “While we feel sorry for the majority of young people who were on their best behaviour, we are joining a Facebook campaign to let these silly and rather pathetic boys and girls know that you are not wanted in the town centre on a Friday evening.

“We will not let some very immature boys and girls ruin a family event for thousands of others. They should be ashamed of themselves and their parents should be ashamed of them.

“Where are the parents, who clearly have no clue what their awful children are doing on a Friday night?”

The views were echoed by a number of Gazette readers, including Gareth Evans who said: “The only way to describe the kids we saw up there was a mob. It needs stopping otherwise Blackpool is going to be a no-go zone after dark for families.”