Youths out of control

Unsupervised youths drinking and fighting in public places in the early hours of the morning are concerning Central Otago police.

Sergeant Simon Paget , of Cromwell, said the message was not getting through to parents who were letting their children wander the streets in the early hours of the morning.

Several complaints had been received about youths drinking and fighting in public places and wilfully damaging property.

''I have to ask, where is the accountability from the parents of those involved? These kids were all out in the early hours of the morning,'' Mr Paget said.

Central Otago sub area commander senior sergeant Ian Kerrisk said, ''Youths traditionally are not a major factor in offending in our area but the number of calls we get seem to spike at this time of the year as national exams finish and they have more free time.''

Youths have every right to be out at night but anyone under the age of 18 could not drink alcohol, Mr Kerrisk said.

Parents were often supplying alcohol to their children to go off and drink in a public place.

''We need to make it very clear, you can't do that,'' he said.

Alcohol can only be supplied to people under the age of 18 if it was being consumed at a private residence.

Youths caught with alcohol in a public place would be instantly fined $200 with ''no exceptions'', Mr Kerrisk said.

''What we are asking is that parents make sure they are aware of where their children are and what they are up to.''

Alexandra police had been dealing with a ''small group'' of youth offenders during the past month who were involved in stealing and crashing a Breen Construction van and vandalising more than 25 buildings, cars and fences in Clyde.

Cromwell police were investigating wilful damage complaints around the town including at the Cromwell Primary School, where youths kicked holes in the side of a classroom, and at the mall where Christmas decorations were thoughtlessly pulled down.

Cromwell community facility officer Evelyn Bisset said the youths swung on the Christmas decorations, damaging them to the point that new decorations would need to be bought for next year.

During the weekend they also targeted the Lode Lane public toilet upgrade, pulling a soap dispenser off the wall and scratching graffiti into the walls with screws.

Central Otago deputy mayor and Cromwell Community Board chairman Neil Gillespie said: ''I don't care who you are and how old you are, vandalising someone's property is not acceptable ... It needs to be stopped and stopped now,'' he said.

Damaged property affected the entire community and the cost of repairs fell back onto the ratepayer, Mr Gillespie said.

Mr Paget said members of the public were urged to contact police if they were concerned about youth behaviour.

''We certainly need you to tell us about unsupervised youth causing problems so we do something about it."

The Southland Times