I MAY be old and bitter, but when I read about the destruction wrought by youths on our streets, my blood boils.
Perhaps it’s best to start this column by stating that the vast majority of young people are decent, good-natured and respectful to society as a whole. We only have to look at the excellent achievements of students at our local high schools to see evidence of this.
But for some reason, a minority of mindless tearaways seems hell-bent on tarnishing the reputation of all teenagers.
This is not a new phenomenon, by any stretch of the imagination. It has always been the case – dare I say it, even when I was a lad.
The main difference in my day was an almost universal fear of authority, namely the presence of the local bobby feeling your collar, followed up by a swift clip around the ear if you dared to give any backchat. There was also far less in terms of provision for youth, compared to what we see today.
So it makes me increasingly angry to see public money – often tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds – being poured into providing first-rate facilities to give young people the chance of engaging in constructive activity, only for it to be systematically abused.
In the case of Amble Welfare’s new skate-park, £180,000 was invested to help address the long-held complaint that there was nothing for kids to do in the town, other than roam the streets. What makes it remarkable is that this project was driven by an extremely keen and eloquent group of teens, who managed to persuade the authorities to part with a massive amount of cash.
They, and everyone else involved, have been badly let down by the disgraceful amount of litter left at the park in recent weeks, not to mention the shameful graffiti covering the sheltered seating area.
But what angered me more was the story of Rev Velda Nicholson, who did her level best to clean up an Amble bus shelter which had been turned into a grotesque hovel by this same unsavoury bunch. No sooner had she started to apply fresh paint, than they were back with their marker pens and spray cans to undo her good work.
These grubby little urchins don’t deserve nice things until they learn to respect the communities they are part of. Simply handing things on a plate to them seems to have the opposite effect – it breeds even more contempt in their tiny brains.
A new skate park or clean public facilities only offers virgin territory for them to spoil with their meaningless scribbles.
Many people would be delighted to see the culprits made to give up a significant portion of their free time redressing the damage they’ve done, put to work on scrubbing paths and walls, clearing weeds and picking up litter.
Rev Nicholson, on the other hand, deserves a medal for persevering in the face of such idiocy.
The natural question this raises is who, ultimately, is responsible for fostering this anti-social attitude?
Many would say the parents. Others may blame society in general for feeding our youngsters an almost constant diet of instant celebrity and personal gratification, only for the illusion to be shattered by the reality of an otherwise mundane life.
Whatever the cause, we can be in no doubt that there is delinquency on our streets.
Just a few days ago, I was walking down Bondgate Within in Alnwick.
A young lad, probably no more than 12 years old, stopped me as I passed and asked me if I would go into the shop for him. I asked why and he answered quite forthrightly: “For cigarettes.”
I refused. To my shock and dismay, he then went to every passing adult stranger on the street asking the same question.
The sad thing? He didn’t care what anyone thought of him.