By Terry Odenigbo
Caidence Leadbitter, 3, and her playmates Isabel, 4, and Ellie-Louise, 7, were playing in Leadbitter’s front yard when neighbors noticed they were trampling the plants and trees — and called the cops.
Police in West Midlands, England sent letters to homes on the street warning against childrens’ “intimidating” behavior.
Civil orders for anti-social behavior, known as ASBOs, are usually reserved for shoplifting, mugging, arson and the like.
But according to police, elderly neighbors feel “intimidated” when groups of children gather, apparently even toddlers.
Allan Cameron of the Solihull police said “reports have been received about a rise in anti-social behavior.” He added that the letter was sent to all the homes on that street as a warning, not just the homes of the three girls.
“It is understood that children like to play outdoors, however this has been observed to extend to minor damage to nearby trees and trampling of plants underfoot,” Cameron said. “This is not an ideal situation and is perceived as slightly intimidating to elderly neighbours to see any large groups of children congregating.”
The youngsters’ mothers were outraged. They say they know the letters were targeting them, because theirs are the only children who play on that street, as the older children go to a nearby park.
Police noted that legally, they cannot issue ABSOs to anyone under 10 years old. “The youngest person ever handed an anti-social behavior order in Birmingham is 11-years-old,” said West Midlands Police Superintendent Kevin Doyle.
But Kelly Leadbitter says the letter amounted to a threat nonetheless. “When you get a letter through your door from the police effectively saying your child has been engaging in anti-social behaviour you think of ASBOs.”
Ellie-Louise and Isabel’s mother, Claire Cox, said she feels lucky to live on a street where it is safe for her children to play outdoors.
“I don’t want them sat in the house all day watching TV. I would like to know who they can possibly intimidate in the area?”