Teenage Problems/Handling teenagers sitting in my garden?
I'm wondering, how do you deal with teenagers who sit in your garden smoking and drinking - I contacted the police but they said it was a civil, not criminal matter and that they have tried dealing with it but since no property was damaged they are doing as much as they can. I live in South West Midlands area, near Bristol / South Gloucestershire.
The youths weren't exactly rude, but they were more interested in eating loads of cream cakes, crisps and drinking Diet Coke - there were two boys who looked about 15-16, and a 16 year old girl.
I politely warned them to go away, and they left sheepishly.
I had to clean up the mess; but they returned the next day and said "F** off".
One girl was smoking a cigarette - and she was 16, and another boy was sitting topless on my lawn, with his boxers showing.
I again got them to move on, the police involved, but am a bit worried they may come back.
They seem to like climbing over my fence to do this using my garden - which is fairly large - as a socialising spot.
We have a youth club locally, so why use MY garden??
I could go to their parents, but knowing today's generation they'd probably threaten to sue me for "abuse" when I haven't even done anything, other than warn them.
I'm a bit confused as to how to handle this; whilst rebellion is normal in most teenagers I suppose, using someone's garden as a hangout/place to chill out in? - what do you do about that?
Thank you for taking the time to write to me and I hope that I can help.
Your garden is part of your property and as such, any person or people not invited by yourself on to the property could be considered trespassing which used to mean that they could be removed by the Police. As you have mentioned, there has been a shift in the law that has meant that now trespassing is dealt with civilly rather than criminally which makes tackling it more difficult. That does not mean that you have to tolerate having people who you don't want in your garden or fearing them because of their number of age; there are things you can do if you have not done so already.
The first point of call should be to contact your local council. Whether you own or rent your property, the council have a duty to tackle anti-social behaviour and this includes tackling groups of young people who may be causing a nuisance or menace. South Gloucestershire Council have an anti-social behavioural unit that should be able to at least advise (if not tackle# the offenders with the intention of repremanding them #or, if necessary, their parents#. I have put the link below, along with Bristol council's just in case either of them can help.
Trespassing may not be a criminal matter but harrassment and vandolism are and if you feel like you are being harassed or intimidated then you can contact the Police to report this as this is something they may be able to tackle by talking to the youths in question.
There are practical steps that you can take to protect your property and this includes installing CCTV on the outside of the property to act as a deterrent or extending your wall or fence to a higher height. Although none of these should be options that you have to consider doing in your own garden, if it will make you safer and allow you to enjoy your garden free from litter then it may be something that you want to consider.
Collecting evidence is paramount to proving anything that could be use to force a legal action against the youths and if you did install CCTV or had a visible camera, even if this does not act as a deterrent, it will help you to catch evidence of potential vandalism or abuse that you can then take the Police. A cheaper alternative is keeping a diary or log of events which means when you come to report it there can be no dispute over facts of the case.
It could be that you can consider taking out an injunction against individuals to stop them coming near your property but I would seek legal advice about the implications of doing such a thing as it could cause neighbourhood disputes that escalate.
As a simple method of preserving your garden and a cheeky trick (depending upon the layout of your garden), have sprinklers positioned where the youths sit but hidden and switch them on when they arrive to get rid of them. If it provokes any kind of reaction then this will be purely criminal and could be pursued through the courts.
I would always recommend keeping things amicable and looking at all of your options but going to your council first is usually a good way of getting the problem noticed and they have more power than the police at preventing the behaviour from occurring as they are local authority and may own the houses that their parents live in.
Before you take any action, if you are not sure of where you stand legally, please get some advice (free) from your local citizen's advice bureau to protect yourself.
I hope that helps.