POLICE believe they have identified the hardcore group of teenagers responsible for a surge youth crime around Peebles.

Officer patrols were upped in the town at the end of last month following a worrying rise in anti-social behaviour, vandalism, and claims of “gang attacks”.

The delinquent minority were targeted in December following a large scale police crackdown on anti-social behaviour, which involved officers being deployed on patrols from both Police Scotland and the Community Action Team.

Sergeant James Harrison who is based in Galashiels has been part of the team tackling crime in Peebles.

He said: “Anti-social behaviour is the big one for Peebles.

"I work in Galashiels, and I’m still aware that Peebles has had an issue with youth disorder over the past six months or so.

“At the end of November it came to a head and there was a serious incident and a number of offences were committed, not just by youths, but also 16- and 17-year-olds. That was a turning point for us. I’ve investigated it, and there will be a number of people charged on the back of this.

“We’ve also deployed patrols throughout the town through December including the Community Action Team and community policing, and we’ve had officers coming down from Edinburgh to do patrols when we weren’t available.

“It’s had a significant effect and I’m pleased to say that the youth and disorder calls in December in Peebles have reduced by 76 percent so it’s a really good result. There was a lot of effort by the police and we are really hoping to continue that momentum into the New Year.”

Officers have been carrying out high visibility and plain clothed patrols to seize alcohol from youths.

However, anti-social behaviour is a recurring problem for Peebles Rovers Football Club, with committee members fearing players will be injured by broken bottles left on the pitch.

Sergeant Harrison said: “I am disappointed to hear there were issues at the football stadium. We can offer a crime prevention service to see if we can improve things around the football club.

"There are mobile CCTV cameras but we have to go through a process to get those as they are quite highly sought after. They were deployed in December on the School Brae to great effect and are a massive deterrent for crime.

“The youth issues in Peebles I think were only caused by a very small hardcore group and we seem to have hit the right group over December, and I think that’s why you’ve seen such a good result.

“I’m not by any stretch of the imagination saying that youths are an issue in general, most kids are good kids, we just need to target the right ones and if we can try and divert them by getting them into the youth hubs and making them into law abiding kids then all the better.”

Questions were asked about the amount of parental support police receive when youths are identified for anti-social behaviour and taken home.

Sergeant Harrison said: “It depends on the family. Sometimes you get parental support and sometimes the parents instinctively try to defend their children and we don’t get a lot of support. However, we deal with each incident as it happens and then try and work with that family. We like to see parents taking responsibility for their kids.”

Community councillor Lawrie Hayworth, added: “Our concerns are never with the local officers that we have here. It can be concerns about resourcing at Police Scotland, or Bilston, it is not about our officers that do a great job.”

Tweeddale Councillor Robin Tatler said that the Community Action Team has put a “phenomenal” amount of resource into Peebles and they are still going to be working on targeting anti-social behaviour throughout the year.