A crackdown on gangs of nuisance teenagers causing havoc in Doncaster town centre is underway after complaints from the public.
During half term, police re-arranged their shifts because of concerns about the problem, and Doncaster Council bosses have already started taking action to stem the issue.
Particular concerns have been raised over a group of around 20 teenagers - mostly girls thought to around 15 years old.
Officers were called out to deal with them six times in one day last week, during the school half term. There are also reports of a teen gang throwing a smoke bombs at a council official.
Insp Lynne Lancaster said: "There have been issues around the Frenchgate Centre, the transport interchange and Lakeside Shopping Centre, They have been issues with teenagers on bikes being verbally abusive.
"It was school half term last week, so we put on extra resources in that area, around the interchange.
"We have already identified about 10 young people, and the idea is to identify the rest of them so that we can deliver acceptable behaviour contracts to their parents.
"It is a gang of mainly girls, and that is not a mix we have seen in the past. We are looking at CCTV footage."
Most reports have been at weekends and evenings.
Among the worst days for the issue was Tuesday last week, when incidents were reported at McDonalds, St Sepulchre Gate, the Frenchgate, the interchange, and clock corner. The gang had been described as having covered faces and shouting abuse. One teenager is understood to be a suspect in an attack on a security man at the Frenchgate Centre.
Officers are also looking at using disperal powers under the Doncaster town centre Public Spaces Protection Order to deal with the groups.
Doncaster Council bosses are aware of a problems with gangs of youths.
They have already started to take action to try to relieve the problem.
Extra closed circuit television cameras have been installed in the tunnelled area which runs between the interchange and the B&M store on Church Way.
They have also closed two of the tunnels there completely, sealing them off with steel fences to reduce the opportunity for gangs to gather or hide away.
Doncaster Council's head of service (communities), Pat Hagan, said: "That has had a dampening effect on the problem, but this seems to be the hot spot that is replacing begging in the town centre.
"We know there is a problem, and that is why the police have ramped up resources and patrols. They are in the process of identifying them, but some of them wear balaclavas which makes it difficult."
On one occasion last week, Mr Hagan and members of his team had a smoke bomb thrown towards them as they tried to help a homeless man in the interchange by finding him accommodation.
"It has been quieter since we put in CCTV," he said. "We have also worked with B&M to stop people accessing more remote area of their site.
"I think it is important that is that anyone who is going there to misbehave knows that they will get caught and dealt with.
"We want people to come into town and enjoy themselves, not to spoil the enjoyment of others."
John Magee, centre manager at Lakeside Village, said: “There have been a small number of antisocial behaviour incidents at the centre recently. As such, we have been working very
closely with the police to resolve any issues that arise as quickly as possible.
“The safety and security of our staff and customers is absolutely paramount and we do have security and customer service operatives who are highly visible around the centre at all times.”
Paddy Mellon, general manager of Frenchgate Shopping Centre, said: “We are aware of rising levels of anti-social behaviour in and around Doncaster town centre.
“Unfortunately on dark winter nights, the small minority of people that are involved in these incidents are often drawn to public facilities like ours to escape the cold. “We want people to enjoy visiting our centre and therefore have codes of conduct in place which we expect everyone to abide by.
“We have a duty of care to our customers, as well as to our shopping centre and security staff, and we will do all we can in our power to ensure the people who visit and work in our
centre can continue to do so without fear of being intimidated by the small minority of people involved in anti-social behaviour.
“Criminal activity and anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated in our centre and we enforce banning orders to stop offenders returning to Frenchgate.
“We also work closely and proactively with Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council and South Yorkshire Police and remain committed to our partnership approach to tackling anti- social behaviour in our town, as well as developing preventative measures.”
A spokesman for South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, which runs Doncaster interchange, said: “Our main Interchanges are staffed throughout the day and night to ensure that they provide a safe environment for passengers and staff. We work closely with district councils and South Yorkshire Police when instances of anti-social behaviour occur to identify those involved.”
Anyone with information on the identities of those involved can call police on 101.
Elsie Plummer, aged 84 of Scawthorpe, said: "I've seen the gangs on their bikes. The girls are as bad as the lads. I've been intimidated by them. I saw one of them get off his bike and swipe a load of phone gear onto the floor off a stall. I think they need to do something about them.
"But there is also anti-social behaviour from grown men outside pubs on football match days."
Robert Hood, aged 75, of Skellow, said: "I've not seen it myself, but I know some of the time you get three or four in the bus station. But they have security people in there."
Kathleen Weir, aged 68, of Edlington, said: "I've not seen it, but if that is happening something should be done about it. I would feel quite vulnerable"
James Hunt, aged 37, of Stainforth said: "I've seen people on pushalong scooters coming out of the Frenchgate, but not doing anything antisocial. But there have not been many in town this week because of the weather."
Nigel Berry, of Armthorpe, said: "I've seen them through the market, but not seen them causing any problems at the market."
Doncaster's Public Spaces Protection Order was initially put in place following concerns over aggressive begging in the town centre.
Action has been targeted at alleviating that problem, with those who are found in breach initially referred to agencies to help them get off the streets and to deal with wider problems they may have.
Thousands of people have been engaged under that scheme. Groups of youths are a new issue to be lined up for action under the powers of the order.
Officials believe it has been a success in dealing with begging and rough sleeping. Complaints of begging have fallen by over 40 per cent.
Peter Dale, director for regeneration and environment, said: “The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) has been in force in the town centre for over three months now. To date we have had more than 2,200 engagements to advise people about their behaviour, the PSPO and made almost 300 referrals to support services. Our aim is to supportively challenge the unacceptable behaviour of any individual who visits the town centre.
“We have always said that the main aim of the PSPO is to encourage those who need it with access to the help and support they need to help them break the cycle of homelessness or begging.
“The initial response we have received from both businesses and residents to date has been positive and we are starting to see the impact the PSPO is having in the town centre. We have never claimed that the PSPO will be a quick fix and we are committed to provide the help and support that people need. However, we will take action against the small minority of people who continue to behave in an anti-social manner. This is a good start and shows what we can when we all work together.”