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Police admit they were too slow to react to Stray gatherings

Police admit they were too slow to react to Stray gatherings

Published by Lisa Darvill with contributions by Local Democracy Reporter Jacob Webster at 12:01pm 7th July 2020.

A police chief has admitted officers were too slow to react when “hundreds” of teenagers last month gathered on Harrogate’s Stray for an end-of-term lockdown party.

  • The mass gathering on 20th June which resulted in complaints from residents
  • Litter was also left at the Stray, along with laughing gas canisters 
  • North Yorkshire Police’s Detective Superintendent Steve Thomas spoke to councillors at a meeting 
  • He said he was “really sorry” that officers did not intervene earlier 

North Yorkshire Police’s Detective Superintendent Steve Thomas told councillors he was “really sorry” that officers did not intervene earlier at the mass gathering on 20 June which resulted in complaints from residents and litter left at the parkland.

The rubbish left on the ground included alcohol bottles and drug paraphernalia – namely laughing gas canisters – which prompted health warnings from police and anti-litter action from Harrogate Borough Council.

Det Supt Steve Thomas said at a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee:

“We didn’t get it 100 per cent right.

“I am really sorry that we weren’t able to get to grips with it in time for it not to affect the people who reported it to us.

“I was working on the evening that it happened and as soon as we were aware we had deployed through the force control room additional resources.

“Unfortunately once you get a gathering of that size it is a question of trying to engage as best as possible.

“I am not saying we got that entirely right and we certainly learnt from it.”

Pictures taken on the Sunday morning showed the parkland strewn with laughing gas (nitrous oxide) canisters and balloons, which Det Supt Steve Thomas warned has “significant health implications”.

He said:

“There is a real health issue with it. I think it is seen as something that is okay to do and you’re not going to get into trouble, but it has some real significant health implications, particularly if they are mixing it with alcohol or any other drugs.”

The images of rubbish scattered in visitors’ wakes also sparked outrage by residents, some of whom took matters into their own hands by organising litter picks.

It also saw Harrogate Borough Council install more bins, double waste collections and deploy staff seven days a week to tackle widespread waste which continued to appear throughout last month’s warm weather.

Coun John Mann told the meeting he believed the mass gathering was made up of local students who had just finished their summer term.

Det Supt Steve Thomas added:

“It was at the height of the unseasonably warm weather and you’re quite right, it was coinciding with when a number of the school children who would have either finalised their GSCEs or their A-Levels.

“Unfortunately I think some of their behaviour went beyond what anyone would want to see.

“We are hopeful we won’t end up with scenes like that again.”