'TEENAGE gangs' are being blamed for an increase in vandalism blighting Weymouth seafront.

One business owner says things have got so bad he is considering hiring a private security firm to deter vandals.

There are also concerns that it will affect tourism, driving away holidaymakers who can be intimidated by large groups of youths and dismayed by the vandalism.


It follows our report yesterday that communities wanted more police on the beat amid a rise in crime including a surge in violent offences.

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that recorded crime in Dorset rose by more than 8 per cent last year.

An FOI request by the Echo revealed there were 115 incidents of criminal vandalism on the promenade between January 1, 2015 and May 7, 2018 - costing Weymouth and Portland Borough Council £12,905.46 to put right.

But in the past year the problem is reported to have escalated.

The figures only include instances that can be "reasonably suggested as deliberate, mischievous or malicious destruction or damage of property" and a spokesman for the council said they were all reported to Dorset Police as a matter of course.

It also only includes council assets and damage caused to third party assets is unknown.

The majority of the cost, £7,197.93, was spent on repairing broken glass, largely at bus shelters and the Royal Hotel which has had eight windows smashed in the timeframe.

Other costs involved removing graffiti, including offensive and racist vandalism, cleaning smeared food off bus shelters, replacing broken signs, repainting bins after they were set alight and removing flyposting.

It appears vandalism is increasing with 25 incidents reported in 2015, 26 in 2016 and 49 in 2017.

Robert Gutteridge who has owned the Tea Cabin on the Esplanade for 35 years said there is a ‘notable’ increase in vandalism during the summer, when "gangs" of teenagers gather on The Esplanade.

“It amazes me [the cafe] has seen two world wars and yet more damage has been inflicted over the past few years than ever before. Every year it costs hundreds and hundreds to repair," Mr Gutteridge said.

He added teenagers in Weymouth were 'emulating behaviour they see online and on television and seemed to want to hang from, or climb on everything.

“Benches have been smashed, the hands of the clock on the roof have been bent, bottles are constantly being smashed on the floor.

“Some kids set fire to the esplanade toilets the other day – they set fire to the toilet rolls," he said.

He added he thought changes in policing had not helped when it came to deterring vandals.

“Policing is so often done by car now – there’s nothing like a constable on foot," he said.

Mr Gutteridge said he was now considering hiring a private security firm to "keep watch" this summer.

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council briefholder for tourism and culture and the harbour, Cllr Richard Kosior said vandalism "absolutely" had a negative effect on Weymouth.

"It is off putting for tourists and spoils residents’ enjoyment of the town too," he said.

Cllr Kosior added the council had recently employed new support staff as part of the 'Community Safety Accreditation Scheme' to deter people from carrying out acts of vandalism and give reassurance to visitors and residents alike.

“However, I would urge members of the public to be vigilant. If you see anyone causing damage along the seafront please report it to the police,” he said.