COMMUNITIES in Runcorn and Widnes have been urged to help celebrate the 'local heroes' who have stood up against vandals, thugs and anti-social neighbours.

This year's Taking A Stand Awards, in partnership with Crime Concern and the Co-op, will recognise individuals and groups who have shown commitment and bravery in tackling problems in their communities, such as vandalism, nuisance neighbours, graffiti, harassment, intimidation and rubbish dumping.

Announcing the awards, Home Office minister Hazel Blears said: 'The anti-social behaviour of a minority of vandals, thugs and nuisance neighbours can ruin neighbourhoods and destroy people's quality of life.

'The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, with measures such as the closure of crack houses and dispersal of intimidating groups, sends out a strong message that anti-social behaviour will be tackled not tolerated.

'Backed up by these tough new laws communities can work together to tackle anti-social behaviour and restore an area's pride for the benefit of the law-abiding majority. It takes bravery and determination to stand up to yobs, and people across the country are making a real difference to their communities.

'We want to reward those people who are saying enough is enough. The stories of last year's Taking A Stand Award winners are an inspiration to others and I would like to see as many nominations as possible for this year's Awards.'

Nominations are called for from individuals and community groups for the 2004 awards, the second year of the scheme.

The overall winner will receive £5,000 and the additional 100 winners £1,000 to further fund their projects.

Winners will also be offered a specialist programme to help build their skills and confidence in tackling other local problems and helping people in a similar situation.

Last year's overall winners, from Oldham, showed real determination in facing up to persistent anti-social behaviour.

A spokesperson for the Dean Street residents said: 'Taking a stand isn't easy, but if you don't do it yobs and thugs will think they can get away with appalling behaviour and will keep making your life, and that of people around you, a misery.

'What really struck us at last year's Taking A Stand Awards was that everyone was very deserving - all the winners were really dedicated to making their community a better place to live.

'In standing up to the yobs, we all felt that we had done the right thing and it was really encouraging to be recognised by the Home Office for this.'

Martin Beaumont, chief executive of the Co-operative Group, said: 'As the UK's leading convenience store retailer, with many stores in the heart of communities, we know only too well how anti-social behaviour can blight a neighbourhood.

'But we also know that in every town there are people who are already working tirelessly to address these problems, which is why these awards, which recognise and reward these considerable and often courageous efforts, have our full support.'

Roger Howard, chief executive of Crime Concern, said: 'We are so delighted to be part of these awards because they are testament to the power and influence of local people to make positive changes in troubled neighbourhoods.

'It is the active involvement of local people and groups that makes all the difference.

'This is our chance to say thank you for their perseverance and fortitude in tackling issues that can so easily destroy the quality of daily life and community spirit.' To nominate your local heroes, call 0800 0852980 or visit

The deadline for nominations is September 28.

Family has nightmares on a daily basis

The Government has announced another crackdown on thugs and nuisance neighbours and is even offering cash rewards to residents who stand up against anti-social behaviour. However, many families in Halton are still suffering at the hands of neighbourhood yobs. SIMON DRURY hears one family's story. Their names have been changed for their own protection.

THE Jones family are a typical hard-working 21st Century British family.

Husband and wife work hard to make ends meet and though the kids are not perfect angels, they attend school regularly and are respectful to their elderly neighbours.

The Runcorn estate they live on is no paradise, but - at least until a couple of years ago - it was a relatively safe and peaceful place to bring up children.

But that all changed when the family from hell moved in next door.

Dad David is at his wits end after endless months of dealing with the disruption and heartache caused by living next door to an extended workshy criminal clan.

This is his own story, in his own words:

'We are an honest, hardworking family. Between us we have no criminal convictions, we pay our taxes and look after our property as if it were our own.

'With this in mind, why do we have to suffer day in day out living next to self-confessed drug users and dealers?

'Their property is a disgrace, the smell is sometimes un bearable and there are better-kept landfill sites than the gardens.

'They are known to every member of the Runcorn and Widnes police by name, who have shown us pity but little else.

'The family consists of the following members: Father - a petty criminal who likes to use and deal drugs; Mother - a self-confessed drug-user who says 'it's the only way we can live our lives'; Older son - constantly in trouble and suffers from 'behavioural difficulties'; Second son - currently on curfew and electronically tagged. They also have a younger boy who is already had numerous cautions for theft at the age of nine.

'Visitors arrive at the home throughout the day and night. They are all identical in appearance - short-cropped hair and tattoos on the face and neck.

'As a matter of course we double-lock every window and door in the house and shed and have felt the necessity to install three security cameras and two high-power lights to the exterior of the property for our protection and that of our property.

'On several occasions we have had our property targeted by eggs, a used sanitary towel and other items mostly made up of rubbish or food.

'Surely this is no way to have to live our lives.

'Over the past three years we have been contacted by the police, who have used our video evidence to secure prosecutions.

'On the video footage the following incidents can be clearly seen:

People leaving the house with hoods and masks on, then returning with a stolen mailbag.

Dad openly refuelling cars outside his house with diesel stolen on one of his many nightly escapades.

The younger children abusing people in the street using vulgar language, as well as causing criminal damage by constantly playing football in the road when there is a park with football posts literally across the street.

Cars pulling up, buying and selling stolen goods as well as drug dealing. Causing an obstruction blocking people's drives all hours day and night.'