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Anti-social behaviour complaints in Marlow drop after mediator steps in
REPORTS of anti-social behaviour in Marlow have fallen significantly since a mediator was brought in to work in an area blighted by yobbish youths.
Dr David O'Halloran, whose skills negotiating in conflict zones such as Lebanon and Sierra Leone were sought out by police, says he is encouraged by progress but labelled a trial 'dispersal order' - in place before he begun his work - as 'crazy'.
A dispersal zone was set up around Gunthorpe Road between March and November, giving police power to ban youths from the area for 24 to 48 hours if they suspected them of troublemaking.
Whilst the zone was still operational, in three months between September and November there were 27 calls about anti-social behaviour in that area and 100 in Marlow generally.
But since then there has been just six calls from residents living in the zone and 21 generally across town.
Officers said the group of Gunthorpe youths were often involved in anti-social calls in Marlow generally, therefore these figures were significant.
Dr O'Halloran said: "The figures are encouraging and hopefully its now part of an upward trend."
He agreed to help at a fiery public meeting in November, in which residents told how their lives had been made hell by a group of teenagers.
Dr O'Halloran, from Mediation Bucks, has worked in war torn countries such as Somalia as a physician, where he also developed negotiation skills and has since used these with the Metropolitan Police in areas like Brixton.
Since November he has been going out onto the streets to meet the youngsters who are accused of causing trouble.
He admitted to thinking it was a joke when Supt Gilbert Houlla originally asked him to help.
"I asked him, 'you are saying there's a group of feral youths roaming around in Marlow?'
"I said 'that's unbelievable, Marlow is a jewel in the crown in the area'."
While he believes while residents had legitimate gripes and had clearly had bad experiences previously, the problem is not insurmountable or as bad as it may have appeared in November.
He said: "I thought at the time of the public meeting that getting another dispersal order would have been good but having been down there and spoken to the youths I now realise it was counter-productive."
He said it was getting to a situation when merely walking down the street as a group was becoming an offence, and inflaming the situation.
He said: "It's crazy, there should never have been a dispersal order and I'm glad it's not there now."
Dr O'Halloran said he has not been intimidated when dealing with the youths.
"I keep saying to myself this is Marlow, this is not Beirut, not Palestine and definitely not Sierra Leone," he said.
Area Commander Supt Houalla said reports of anti-social behaviour are a priority but police enforcement is not the only response.
He said: "Mediation Buckinghamshire, by engaging with all parties concerned, attempts to understand the causes behind those incidents while involving all parties to find acceptable solutions.
"I am keen not to alienate young people, if at all possible, while effectively dealing with ASB incidents on behalf of my community, Mediation Bucks plays an effective part in assisting me to achieve this outcome."
Dr O'Halloran has compiled a report for police and the council, with a number of recommendations to address the issue long term.
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