SPECIAL REPORT: 'Gun-toting and axe-wielding thugs have hijacked our Doncaster estate'

The public meeting in Edlington.

The public meeting in Edlington.

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Terrified residents are 'living in a state of fear' after their housing estate became hijacked by gun-toting and axe wielding thugs who are making their lives a misery.

People living on the Royal Estate in Edlington claim menacing young gangs are running amok on off-road bikes taunting locals and threatening them with weapons.

A burned out car in Edlington.

A burned out car in Edlington.

Fed-up residents said the escalating crime spree in recent months has resulted in a spate of burglaries, smashed windows and arson attacks while drug dealing and threats of violence have become part of everyday life.

More than 100 people packed into an emergency public meeting at the Grainger Centre earlier today to raise their concerns with police and council chiefs, including Doncaster mayor Ros Jones.

They said:-

*A man threatened three people with an axe while they were moving into their new home

Doncaster mayor Ros Jones.

Doncaster mayor Ros Jones.

*Gangs threaten to 'burn residents cars' if they 'grass them up' to police, and

*Menacing yobs are seen carrying air-rifles in the street.

Peter Katanic, aged 62, who has lived in Edlington all of his life, said: "People are living in fear. I know once someone said they would tell the police about these people and they came back later and set fire to their car. When the fire brigade came, they returned and started dancing in front of them.

"On another occasion three people were moving into their house and a man with a dog appeared and threatened them with an axe. They are taunting us and they have no fear. And it is like this day in, day out."

The public meeting in Edlington.

The public meeting in Edlington.

Another man said he had seen someone with an air rifle in the street and added: "They tear about on these motorbikes at speed. Someone will get killed before long."

A resident who has lived on Church Street for 40 years added that there is "drug dealing every day" on his road.

A woman said there had been nine burglaries in Kings Crescent alone in recent weeks and added: "They sit and wait for people to leave their homes and then break in."

The meeting also heard that CCTV cameras put up as a deterrent have been "torn down from the lampposts and stolen."

Edlington Police Station.

Edlington Police Station.

Several residents also claimed that Edlington Police Station is 'underused' and called for it to be returned to a 'fully functioning police station'.

Another resident said: "Whatever police are doing it isn't enough. It is time for a more heavy-handed approach."

The meeting heard that two separate gangs of about 10 boys and girls aged in their mid teens are causing the majority of the problems.

The latest figures from police show there were about 200 crime incidents reported in January alone with anti-social behaviour accounting for more than half of these.

A woman called for the council to introduce its EPIC (Encouraging Potential Inspiring Change) programme, which works to resolve issues with young people and their families.

Police, council and community leaders have formed a 'task force' in a bid to tackle the issues raised.

The group - made up of officials from South Yorkshire Police, Doncaster Council and Edlington Town Council - have so far met three times and are coming up with an action plan.

The meeting heard that police have been given extra funding for four dedicated officers to focus on Edlington, with two more coming in September.

Police have also executed a number of search warrants to tackle drug dealing, while extra patrols have been introduced. Officers also said the man with the axe has been arrested and charged.

Councillor Frank Arrowsmith, deputy mayor of Edlington, said: "These issues were first raised to us in August last year and we have since formed a multi-agency task group. This estate has got some complex problems which will take some solving."

Doncaster mayor Ros Jones said: "We will use a toolbox of different things to tackle these problems. We have less money, but that is no excuse. We will work together to solve this."

Councillor Sioned Mair-Richards, assistant police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire, said she has recently been a victim of burglary and "understood how residents felt."

She added: "We want to change the situation together so please work with us. But it will not be fixed by the weekend, it is going to take some time."

Coun Mair-Richards said the force is looking at selling off Edlington Police Station as there are limited funds and it is preferable to "spend money on officers not bricks and mortar."

However, coun Arrowsmith said the authorities are looking at possibly basing some police resources from Edlington Fire Station, which is also used sometimes by paramedics "to good effect."

Pat Hagan, head of services and communities for Doncaster Council, said introducing the EPIC programme to Edlington to work with young people and families would form part of the action plan.

They all encouraged residents to continue reporting incidents to police on 101 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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