SKATEBOARDERS believe they are being “victimised” following revelations that police aim to ban them from Church Square.
Officers submitted a file of evidence to St Helens’ Safer Communities team last year requesting a bye law that would stop skating in pedestrianised zones of the town centre.
Police said it followed reports of damage to buildings and a number of “near misses” with pedestrians. They also cited incidents of verbal abuse and drug use near St Helens Parish Church.
But the young skateboarders have hit back at the police report, insisting they are well behaved and respectful of their surroundings.
Speaking to the Star on Church Street, a group teenage skateboarders aged in their mid-teens put forward their case.
They said: “It is offensive for the police to suggest we take drugs and if there are older people on the square we are respectful. If a church service is on we make sure we skate away from there.
“We tend to come down here in an early evening when the town centre is clearing. It is safe for us – going to somewhere like Victoria Park (which has a skate park) is more dangerous.”
They add that the finger of blame is being pointed in the wrong direction and that it is others who simply come to the Church Square area to “hang around” who often caused trouble.
The teens added: “There are some people who sit on the benches smoking weed who aren’t with the skateboarders.
“There are different groups who come down here, people need to understand that.
Youth group leaders, meanwhile, say they are dismayed that the issue of skaters gathering in Church Square in evenings has been raised.
In a letter to the Star, Joseph Higgins, of Youth Aflame – a church outreach group for youths – said that police already have sufficient powers if criminal activity is really being committed.
He fears police risk “criminalising a section of St Helens people for nothing more than being young and living a little exuberantly”.
Mr Higgins added that the town centre offers a safer place for youngsters than skate park, where some have been assaulted.
Mr Higgins added: “As a group these young people are bright, kind, articulate, funny and well mannered.
“Okay they dress a little differently and I can understand that some can find that a little intimidating but that is no reason to subject them to authoritarian bullying.
“They are the future of St Helens and heavy handed treatment will undoubtedly lead to a lifetime of mistrust and disrespect for the police and authority in general.”
A consultation process over the police request has been taking place and St Helens Council is set to make a decision in the near future.
Have your say on the potential skateboard ban at sthelensstar.co.uk and vote in our online poll.