YOUNGSTERS forced a store to go into lockdown last week, leaving staff and customers ‘terrified’ as they tried to smash through the doors.
Last week, Hampshire Constabulary enforced a section 35 dispersal order at Brockhurst Gate Retail Park, in response to anti-social behaviour problems in the area.
But staff at the stores say the problems are much worse than just children loitering - citing verbal abuse, theft and threats of violence.
At The Food Warehouse on Tuesday night, staff locked the front doors, stopping workers and shoppers from coming in or out of the store.
One staff member told The News: ‘It started with verbal abuse towards us and our customers, then they started stealing from the front of the shop - after that, they targeted bigger items in the store.
‘On Tuesday night a group of about a dozen kids were outside, stopping people from coming in or out; we took the decision to lock the doors and they started hammering at it with whatever they had on them.
‘It was really terrifying for everyone - people are frightened to come into work, it’s disgusting.’
But it’s not just The Food Warehouse that has been targeted by these youngsters.
A staff member from Costa said: ‘They’ve been coming in and stealing bottles of drink from inside, and when you ask them to leave they refuse to do so.
‘They come in about groups of 10, around the ages of nine and 15.’
According to staff at other stores, discussions have been held to jointly pay for security at the retail park.
‘It’s sad that it’s come to that point,’ said The Food Warehouse employee.
‘But hopefully it’ll stop these kids from running riot and causing chaos for everyone; they can’t go unpunished.’
One shopper, who wished to remain anonymous, said: ‘I’ve seen kids leaving with whole bags full of booze, toys and all manner of other things.
‘There needs to be a stronger police presence her to deter them.’
Hampshire Constabulary says the incident was not reported to police, but has urged anyone witnessing anti-social behaviour to call 101; if a crime is in progress, call 999.