ANTI-SOCIAL behaviour amongst young people in Wokingham could be linked to drug misuse, according to one of the council’s senior members.

Latest figures show the rate of young people completing drug treatment in the borough had shrunk from 89 per cent to 57 per cent by June 2018.

The number of reports of anti-social behaviour in Wokingham borough rose by 2.6 per cent to September 2018 and county lines drug dealing has “had a direct bearing on the increased crime levels in the area.”

There have been a string of further incidents in the town centre over recent months.

At a meeting where anti-social behaviour in the borough was being discussed, councillor Rachel Burgess asked if there was a correlation between cuts to police and youth services and an increase in anti-social behaviour.

Graham Ebers, deputy chief executive at Wokingham Borough Council (WBC), said: “I can’t see a direct correlation. I think the correlation is more to do with substance misuse and alcoholism – there is a greater prevalence of that. We as Wokingham are not immune to this.

“We do need to be more sophisticated in our response and we’re learning. Wokingham hasn’t suffered hugely from crime per se and anti-social behaviour, we’re not immune, but because we’ve had less prevalence we’re learning as we go when we have issues that arise.

“Without a doubt, more money would always help because we would have more staff, more resources etc. But I think the problem is a lot more complex than it being a focus about the money.”

The surge in anti-social behaviour over the Christmas period came despite “no build-up” to the “criminality”, with a report suggesting the surge “may have been linked to youths being on holiday over the Christmas period.”

Neighbourhood police teams are undertaking house to house enquiries and checking CCTV near where offences took place.

Officers have changed their working hours and rest days to provide additional cover in evenings and weekends around Wokingham town centre and will continue with this regime “until satisfied that the situation has significantly improved.”

Community schemes have been introduced across the borough to help combat anti-social behaviour in young people.

Wokingham’s community safety partnership (CSP) has commissioned ‘positive pathways’, which helps students at five Wokingham schools who may be at risk of getting involved with county lines.

Pupils are referred to the programme by their schools and behaviours are measured during and at the end of the project.

The CSP has also funded the KICKS project with Reading Football Club, which aims to engage young people aged 11-19 years old.

Free football-based sessions helped 328 youths to understand how to keep themselves safe in their communities and try to help them make informed choices about their lives.

Councillors discussed anti-social behaviour at a meeting of WBC’s community and corporate overview and scrutiny committee on Monday, March 11.