Police free teenager held over Facebook riot call

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Police in Middle Street, Portsmouth, over the weekend.

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A TEENAGER has apologised to the public following his arrest on suspicion of attempting to incite violence linked to riots in London and other cities.

Police arrested the 18-year-old from Southampton last night for promoting a Facebook page devoted to rioting in Hampshire.

He was held overnight and today released without charge.

In an letter released by police, the teenager - who has not been named - writes: ‘My acts on Facebook were stupid and immature, even though I never wanted to start a riot, by creating a page about one I could have incited one. So for that I’m sorry. I know the rioting is a big fear everywhere and didn’t think about the negative side of my poor idea and how people felt.

‘Hopefully the actions taken will make people think twice about trashing their own city and following a bad example.’

Superintendent Steve France-Sergeant said: ‘We are quite content having spoken with him that his intention was not to cause a riot, but he now fully understands that his promotion of a web page devoted to rioting in Southampton was not only inappropriate but caused real concerns to vulnerable people and businesses within the city.

‘This young man now realises now that his actions were highly irresponsible and has written a letter of apology to Southampton city and its residents for causing undue concern.’

Police are ramping up patrols across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight tonight to reassure the public and deter thugs considering causing trouble.

Officers are working around the clock to quell the potential for copycat incidents in the area.

Intelligence teams have been set up to monitors social media on the internet and detect early signs of people trying to generate violence.

There has been no trouble in the Portsmouth area.

But in Southampton some anti-social behaviour has been reported to police.

This includes a gathering of around 20 youths in Mandela Way, Southampton, where bins and vehicles were set alight shortly after 10.30pm yesterday.

The gang was spotted riding around on bikes with masks on their faces and causing a nuisance. They were quickly dispersed by officers.

Detective Chief Superintendent Karen Manners, commander for the policing response to any potential disorder for Hampshire Constabulary, said:

‘Across the county, we deal with this type of incident week in, week out. But this kind of antisocial behaviour is never welcome in Hampshire or the Isle of Wight, and for youths – many of whom appear to be barely teenagers – to use the civil unrest in London and other parts of the country as an excuse to behave this way is totally unacceptable.

‘Our message to young people who think that it is harmless fun to copy what they’re seeing on the television and throw stones at cars and police officers or cause damage is that it won’t be tolerated. We have an active police presence in our communities, with increased numbers of officers on the streets across the two counties, you will be arrested and subject to criminal prosecution.

‘We are working with our partners in the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure that anyone who is arrested is quickly charged and brought to court to face the consequences of their actions.

‘We urge parents who know their youngsters may be disappearing out in the evenings and you may suspect are getting involved in this sort of antisocial behaviour – speak to your children. Find out where they are going, if appropriate, keep them in.

“We are working closely with our communities to provide reassurance, and are providing a regular stream of updates and information on our Twitter site @hantspolice, where we are able to immediately counter rumour and speculation.

‘One of our areas of focus continues to concern the use of social media sites and networks to spread false and malicious rumours of riots and to encourage violence. Some of this speculation and scaremongering has affected our communities, and we will continue tracking down those responsible so they are made to realise the consequences of such reckless remarks.

‘We must thank the public of the two counties for their continued support. We urge you not listen to rumour. If you have concerns, speak to us, and if you see or hear of anything suspicious, give us a call on 101.’