TEENAGERS have been using internet chatrooms to plan gang fights in rural Cheshire villages, police revealed last night.
Officers in Frodsham and Helsby announced a crackdown on the youths who are travelling into the area from nearby Runcorn by train.
Gangs of up to 50 youths are involved, many said to be from the local schools including Helsby High and Frodsham Technology College.
Inspector Phil Hodgson said he believed the fights and antisocial behaviour was the result of parochialism and "inter-town rivalry" and pledged a zero tolerance approach by his officers.
Insp Hodgson said there had been great concern recently as young people gathered to have fights and cause criminal damage.
He said: "People in the villages are feeling intimidated and insecure.
"We now have plain clothes officers out, and it will be zero tolerance where we can prove offences have been committed."
He added: "It seems a number of young people are coming to the villages, particularly at the weekends, with the sole purpose of getting involved in fights with the local teenagers.
"We believe in some cases, these meetings are arranged beforehand in internet chat rooms and alcohol is a factor." Officers,, working with British Transport Police and Arriva Trains, have already begun boarding trains before they reach their destination, checking passengers for valid tickets.
Those without a ticket must step off the train and travellers who are too young to drink and are found in possession of alcohol must hand it over.
But it could be that the young people are using technology to try to stay one step ahead of the police.
Last weekend, police arrested three young people in Frodsham but discovered there had been more trouble in Helsby.
Insp Hodgson said: "Technological advances will always be something we have to contend with, but we're on top of the fact that there is this communication."
PC Phil Meredith, one of the officers who covers Frodsham and Helsby, said: "We are confident we know who the main troublemakers are and they can expect to be hearing from us.
"We don't want to go down the route of arrests and applying for orders such Anti-social Behaviour Orders. But we are ruling nothing out."
Helsby High headteacher Richard Evans said he had not been contacted by police about the problem, and added: "I'm therefore not able to comment on it."