Children as young as six have played a role in vandalising and causing potential delays to a new £11 million shopping project.
The Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust project to regenerate Walton Court shopping centre began in 2009 but is being threatened by the behaviour which has seen doors kicked through, graffiti, building equipment broken and drug abuse.
Two individuals have signed anti-social behaviour contracts (one stage lower than ASBOs) while the trust have warned tenants they risk losing their homes.
Police inspector Kelly Glister said: “It’s challenging. Around that shopping area it’s like a rabbit warren. There are so many entrances so when the police go in there are five or six different exits. People can just run off.
“Unless you have five or six officers you never catch people.”
The new design will see retail units face outwards, more CCTV cameras and a FOB system for residents living inside the centre.
Despite the vandalism causing day-to-day delays, the eight units remain on course to open this autumn and police officer Michael Cowdrey added there has been a decrease in recent vandalism.
However, both Insp Glister and PO Cowdrey are hopeful the project will restore community pride. She added: “In America they have the broken window theory which says if you see a broken window you are more likely to break another. When it’s all new they will then take pride in it.”
PO Cowdrey, who has led the neighbourhood team in the area for three years, said: “I can’t wait. I’ve seen the plans and I think it will knock all of this on the head.”
Both officers stressed the ‘challenging family situations’ some children live in and said it was important to work with them.
As a result, the police, the trust and construction agency have spent time talking to them in schools and Insp Glister added it was key to put a positive message out early.
A trust spokesman said: “There have been a number of cases of vandalism reported but when the public start to see visible signs of things going on it starts to put home that it’s actually happening.”