'˜Living in fear': Patrols for a Leeds estate under siege

PIC: Tony JohnsonPIC: Tony Johnson
PIC: Tony Johnson
RESIDENTS are living in fear of a gang on a Leeds estate where firefighters have been attacked and council workers told not to visit alone for safety reasons.

People living on the Holdforths estate in New Wortley say the community feels under siege from the group of up to 30 youths and men who gather on the estate most nights.

Police arrested four people on suspicion of violent disorder last Thursday morning after residents’ fences were pulled down and set alight and firefighters responding were attacked.

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On the same morning, windows were smashed on New Wortley Community Association’s minibus and around half-a-dozen cars vandalised.

Police and Leeds Anti Social Behaviour team have served house closure warning notices at five properties on the estate and five more have been identified as needing action.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said: “You walk out of your door and there’s a tangible sense of fear.”

A second resident said: “Everyone is too terrified to say anything to them, because if you say anything they will put your windows through.

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“It’s a scary place at the moment, the last few months have been horrific. They are setting things on fire and there are kids smashing up people’s flats.

“Every time you go out there is another set of windows boarded up and you think is it going to be me next?’”

Bill Graham, of New Wortley Community Centre, said: “The behaviour of some people is truly beyond the pale, but none of these problems are unexpected.

“We have been at the heart of trying to regenerate the area, and have had huge success in attracting investment, employment and hope to the area.

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“There is, however, a group of young people who do feel disenfranchised and disengaged. I know them well and I am disheartened at the lack of opportunity for these young people.

“Many of them went to school round here, will have attended our centre, but the lack of support and guidance from other agencies to try and get these young people on to a positive path to employment is disappointing.”

The estate, which is just 20 minutes walk from Leeds city centre, is made up of three groups of streets – The Holdforths, The Clydes and The Bruces.

The incidents of anti-social behaviour are centred around the boarded up Wellington Stores at the centre of the estate.

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Police ordered the shop be closed down in July after it became a magnet for crime and disorder.

The closure order was instigated after a group of up to 30 people were involved in an incident in July where police officers and their vehicles were pelted with bricks and bottles.

Inspector Tanya Wilkins, who heads neighbourhood policing in the area, said: “We are very much aware of the impact that incidents of crime and disorder have been having on the lives of residents on the Holdforths estate and for some time we have been working hard alongside our partner agencies to tackle them and improve the situation. We encourage residents to report any issues and want to assure them that their concerns will be listened to and acted on.” Insp Wilkins added: “My officers will be continuing to mount increased patrols of the area to monitor the situation and we will continue to take positive action to reassure the community.”