LIKE a Wild West sheriff seeing off a band of outlaws, a council near Chester has teamed up with the police to rid its local woods of yobs.
Shirley Hudspeth, clerk to Saughall and Shotwick Parish Council, called for reinforcements earlier this year after some people declared they were too scared to enter parts of Saughall village.
Reports had been made of young louts shooting birds with airguns, starting fires, and leaping out of the undergrowth to scare dog-walkers in Dingle, Bluebell and Pigeon Woods.
Chief Inspector Michael Evans, of Cheshire Police, was quick to respond and pledged to send community safety wardens to back up PC Rob Brown and the local PCSO.
Now the parish council has confirmed that the situation has improved drastically and people are once again safe to venture into the woods.
“It has been very successful,” Cllr Mike Johnson said. “Incidents of damage have dropped dramatically. They are almost non-existent, apart from a couple of very small fires, since the police began to patrol the woods.
“The patrols have had a great effect and it is a good example of two things; firstly that the police listened to local concerns and acted upon them, and secondly that officers on patrol just by their very presence can stop acts of anti-social behaviour.”
The issue first came to light when Mrs Hudspeth, the council clerk, wrote to the police on April 27 this year.
Residents had informed parish councillors of a string of anti-social incidents that had occurred in the woods near Saughall.
Calling for extra police patrols, Mrs Hudspeth wrote: “These incidents have frightened people sufficiently that they no longer dare to walk in this area of the village.
“I understand that youths have been jumping out and scaring ladies as they walk their dogs in the woods and have also been throwing things at them.
“The woods are considered a ‘no-go area’. This is an intolerable situation and cannot be allowed to continue!”
On July 6 she wrote a second letter, saying: “Youths are setting numerous fires and some have been shooting birds with an air pistol. This sort of activity has been going on for two years and now that the lighter nights are here there are signs that it is continuing unabated.”
Chief Inspector Evans wrote back on July 17 vowing to “increase visibility” in the area to stamp out the problem once and for all.
And according to the council the boosted patrols have done the trick.
Cllr Johnson, who walks his dog in the woods, added: “Only yesterday I was approached by a local resident who told me that he had been all over the woods and not one fire or tree was chopped down. In his words he said that the woods have come through the summer holidays unscathed and for the first time in many years.
“The woods are a valuable asset to the people both in Saughall and further afield as people from other areas do travel to the village to walk in them.”
See full story in the Chester Leader