Following a spate of serious incidents in the borough’s parks, residents across Doncaster are calling for greater safety measures and the return of wardens.
Situated in the heart of our communities, parks are supposed to be areas where children can play safely and residents can meet without fear of crime or danger.
But after a number of separate incidents that have taken place in Doncaster’s parks over the last few weeks during which two teenage girls have been attacked and an 11-year-old boy was left with facial burns some residents feel the area’s parks are becoming no-go areas.
And as we move into the middle of the summer months, residents are calling for greater safety measures in the town’s parks and the return of park wardens.
While police say they have not been made aware of any patterns of antisocial behaviour, they add that they cannot begin to tackle problems that are there if they are not made aware of them - and urge residents to report each and every incident that occurs.
The first of the reported park attacks took place on Sunday, June 19 when an 11-year-old boy suffered facial burns in an attack as he rode his bike in a skate park just off Manor Road in Maltby.
As the youngster was riding, an accelerant which was on fire was hurled at him.
Commenting on the incident, DC Mark Hundleby, of South Yorkshire Police, said: “This was a nasty and unprovoked incident against a child and we want to identify those responsible.
“The victim is lucky that his injuries are not more severe, but the fact remains that this behaviour was incredibly dangerous and put lives at risk.
“If you were in the skate park that afternoon, or in the local area and saw anything that might help us work out who did this, please get in touch.”
The next incident took place on Saturday, June 25 at around 6pm, when it is reported that a 15-year-old girl was in a park off Bankwood Crescent in Rossington when an unknown man approached and asked for her phone.
When she refused, the man is alleged to have chased the teenager and pushed her to the ground, before punching her in the face a number of times.
The girl suffered substantial bruising to her face.
She told police her attacker was white, between 30 and 40 years old, around 6ft 4ins tall and of an athletic build.
It is believed the man (shown right in an e-fit image) was wearing a grey hooded jacket and a white T-shirt.
He had his sleeves rolled up and a red-orange tattoo could be seen on his left forearm.
Four days later, on Wednesday, June 29 13-year-old Jennifer Oxley was attacked just yards away from Elmfield Park in Hyde Park.
The Don Valley Academy pupil was on her way to the park when another girl allegedly punched and kicked her in the head and then dragged by her hair.
She then allegedly had a cigarette stubbed out on her head by a boy.
The attack was filmed by someone believed to be friends with the two young attackers, and was circulated on social media attracting tens of thousands of views.
A 13-year-old boy has since been arrested in connection with the assault and officers are still appealing for witnesses as their investigations continue.
Jennifer’s mum, Ann Oxley, said when Jennifer returned home after the attack she was ‘hysterical and crying her eyes out’.
“She told me what happened and I couldn’t believe it,” said Ann, of Palmer Street, Hyde Park.
The 53-year-old added: “A woman picked her up and brought her home after it had happened, she didn’t tell Jennifer who she was – she just wanted to help her.
“After it had happened she was sent the video, and I couldn’t believe it when I saw it.
“It just made me think how could someone do this to another human being? I don’t know why someone would film it either.
“She’s in bits now. She’s afraid to go to school.”
Head of Street Scene and Highways, Andy Rutherford, said: “We are concerned about the reported incident, and will co-operate with South Yorkshire Police while investigations are made.
“It is important to emphasise, however, that the general safety of parks in Doncaster is good, with thousands of people enjoying our parks and green spaces every day.
“We work with ‘Friends of...’ groups to encourage community activity, and this is proving very successful in places such as Sandall Park which regularly hosts well-attended events and welcomes huge numbers of visitors.
“We will continue our work to reduce anti-social behaviour across Doncaster, and hope local people continue to use our parks as much as possible.”
Insp Lynne Lancaster, said: “We have not been made aware of any patterns of antisocial behaviour or violence within parks in Doncaster. Parks are clearly a popular meeting point for young people and our local communities and are often, by their nature, isolated locations; we’d encourage people to be mindful of this and to take necessary precautions to ensure their safety.
“Our officers are present within the parks from time to time but must be situated wherever the demand is greatest in the town.
“Of course, that it’s unlikely we are made aware of every incident which takes place in our parks, which can make identifying a particular crime trend difficult. Anyone who has experienced antisocial behaviour or violence in any of our parks is encouraged to report it to us by calling 101 so that we can act on that information and keep people safe.”