SCHOOLKIDS as young as 12 in the Dearne are successfully begging shoppers to buy them alcohol and cigarettes.
Groups of school-age youngsters in uniform stand outside targeted stores and off-licences even before school starts in the morning, to bag their prey.
They wait near their chosen outlet for adults, some of whom will be known to them, to walk towards the shop, then approach them with stories and pleas for help in procuring bottles of booze and cigarettes.
Their booty is either quaffed and smoked by themselves in back street ‘dens’, or they take their drink and cigarettes with them to sell on to their mates or other kids from school.
Shopkeeper Harinder Singh, 35, whose newsagency and off-licence is on the corner of Goldthorpe’s High Street and Barnburgh Lane, said he has had constant problems with gangs of youths since he first took over the business two years ago.
He said: “I’ve spoken to the police, I’ve approached the school, I’ve done everything I can think of but it seems to be an unsolvable problem.
“Not only is there the issue over drink and fags which never gets any better, but the kids play football across the main road outside the shop. They kick it from one side to another as a sort of dare game and it’s dangerous. I warn them off but next minute they’re back. I’ve had my windows broken many times.”
The youngsters who are after drink are not just after alcopops either, he said. “They generally go for wine or cider. People buy it for them. I’ve seen them afterwards handing it over for money on the street. It happens all times of the day. If I’m suspicious I have asked adults who come in if they are buying it for others, but they always deny it.”
The issue of under-age drinking, and youngsters petitioning adults, was raised at a Goldthorpe PACT (Police and Communities Together) meeting at the end of last week.
High Street resident Brian Dancy told the meeting he sees the gangs by his local shop first thing in the morning, again at lunchtime and then in the evening. He told the meeting: “These kids are a real nuisance, outside the shop and then later when they’ve got drunk. They need stopping.”
A spokesman for Dearne SNT said that local police are working with increased patrols to try to improve the situation.
The PACT meeting was told that the SNT is working in partnership with other agencies to tackle under-age drinking in the Dearne, particularly over the Christmas period. Recent test-purchase operations were failed by one off-licence and two pubs, that could be closed for two weeks if they deal with under-age punters for a second time.
Alcoholic drinks will be confiscated from youths, and a supply of vodka was taken from a gang of four in Goldthorpe in the past week, said the SNT spokesman who added: “Daily patrols are carried out across the area.”