RESIDENTS in a neighbourhood terrorised by young thugs breathed a sigh of relief after three of the ringleaders were issued with ASBOs banning them from the area.
For months people in Ditton were terrorised by a gang led by Daniel Cosgrove, 18, Lee Coles, 19, and Michael Naughton, 17, all of Widnes. Now the three have been told by a judge they face five years' jail if they show their faces in York Road, Abbey Road or Canterbury Road.
The Anti-Social Behaviour Order also bans them from causing harassment, alarm or distress to the public, throwing stones at persons, property or vehicles and contacting witnesses.
The orders, which will last two years, were imposed following a joint campaign involving angry residents, the council, Halton Housing Trust and the police.
Cosgrove, Cole and Naughton conducted a reign of terror in Ditton over the last year, smashing windows, making threats, physical assaults and throwing stones and debris at cars.
One family was forced to flee their home as a result of the gang's anti-social behaviour.
The ASBOs would not have been possible without the support of witnesses who were brave enough to stand up to the youths, giving statements to the police and attending court.
Nick Bailey, Widnes neighbourhood policing unit inspector, said: 'If breaches do occur they will be arrested and custodial sentences sought to enforce the message to those who behave in an anti-social way that it will not be tolerated. I would therefore encourage anybody who witnesses any breach to report it to the police.
'We have shown that the police in Widnes are prepared to use all options available to us to tackle anti-social behaviour, including ASBOs and dispersal orders. However, for long-term success the support and co-operation of the public is vital.'
Nick Atkin, chief executive of Halton Housing Trust, said: 'The vast majority of our customers and younger residents are peaceful and law abiding. When a small minority cause such problems we will work with the police and the courts to put an immediate stop to such actions. Ultimately, some families may be evicted, or individuals imprisoned, if they do not heed the warnings.'