VANDALS who went on a 10-day graffiti spree were made to clear up their scrawlings after being caught in the act by police.
The five youngsters aged 11 to 13 defaced buildings across Havant, Hayling Island, Leigh Park and Bedhampton, with their signature graffiti signs, known as tagging.
It caused hundreds of pounds worth of damage to 17 homes, underpasses, shops and car parks.
When the children were caught police spoke to the victims and with their agreement gave the vandals the option of cleaning up the mess they had made rather than face criminal charges.
They spent four days scrubbing walls, litter picking and tidying up areas across the Havant borough.
PCSO Matt Cox spotted the youngsters tagging a house in Havant town centre and detained them.
His colleague PC Chris Wimshurst worked with the businesses who suffered at their hands, including the Meridian Centre, Havant.
PC Wimshurst said: ‘It was decided by all involved that getting the culprits to work at putting right the damage they caused would be the most effective way of dealing with the crime and also offer the best solution for the victims.
‘Their parents were very co-operative.’
Police and the council worked together to put the youngsters to good use.
Hayling Island police accompanied them in Mengham where they cleaned off their graffiti and litter picked.
Bedhampton PCSOs escorted them through their beat to clean off their trail of destruction. They then spent two days sorting out the damage they had caused to the Meridian Centre car park, in Bulbeck Road and sweeping up.
Centre manager Rob Fryer said: ‘The centre appreciates the positive support received from the police and also the families of these individuals who were all obviously committed to making them pay for their acts.
‘The youths carried out the tasks in a very positive and responsive manner, which we believe was the best way to teach them to respect both the property and local area in which they live.’
At Lloyds Pharmacy in Hayling the youngsters were put to work weeding, litter picking and sweeping the car park.
PC Wimshurst added: ‘These lads are first-time offenders and the best solution seemed to be putting right what they had done.
‘It offers the best compensation for those who suffered and it also helps to make the offenders realise the amount of damage they have caused.
‘I think that this will teach them more than being put in a cell and told off. It was a chance to put common sense policing to work.’
PCSO Cox said: ‘Graffiti is a problem for any town centre, it affects the local community and damages people’s property. I’m pleased to have been instrumental in stopping this run of vandalism.’