A chief constable has criticised parents who allow their children out at night after he was called to deal with 40 teenagers who had gathered to watch one girl stab another.
Dozens of tipsy youngsters aged between 13 and 15 had arranged to meet through social networking sites and text messages in the pretty town of Melksham, Wilts.
Most had told their parents they were on a sleepover but had in fact gathered to watch a 13-year-old girl who had vowed to attack a rival with a knife.
Chief Constable Brian Moore, who was on patrol with colleagues from Wiltshire Police, came across the group by the town’s historic market place at 8.30pm.
They spent an hour-and-a-half shepherding the youths through residential streets and breaking up fights between them and a 14-year-old boy was arrested.
As a result of the incident Ch Con Moore, who has two grown-up sons, penned an open letter to parents questioning why they did not know where their children were.
He wrote: ”Above the screeching voices and other juvenile dramatics I kept wondering whether their parents knew where they were and how they were behaving.
”Everyone there whom I spoke to claimed to be on a ‘sleep over’ and it was clear that many parents simply did not know where their child was or what he or she was doing.
”I pose this question about parental supervision not to accuse but to raise the issues.
”As a father myself I know that trusting our children is important, but surely supervising them is essential.”
The incident happened at around 8.30pm last Friday as Ch Con Moore joined his staff on routine patrol around the town.
They came across a group of teenagers who were eagerly waiting for a fight to break out between a small group of teens around the corner.
The officers made their way into the ”aggressive” part of the group by the historic Market Place and removed the alleged girl culprit – aged just 13 – and her brother, aged 15.
Ch Con Moore wrote: ”All were noisy and most well behaved, but some were considerably more aggressive in their tone and actions.
”I could smell alcohol as I mingled amongst them.
”I learned that that the whole group had assembled because they had been using social media and phone texts to communicate that one of the girls had threatened to stab another girl – and everyone wanted to see what was going to happen.
”Over the next hour and a half, all our available resources in the area were directed towards monitoring this group and shepherding them away from the main roads and residential streets.”
He added he did not see any weapons on the teens but there were a number of objects, such as bottles, lying around that could have been used in a fight.
A 14-year-old boy was arrested for being drunk and disorderly despite ”many warnings and strong advice to go home” during the incident.
But Ch Con Moore revealed he was most concerned about the parental supervision of the teens as it seemed none of them knew what their children were really up to.
He wrote an open letter for local newspapers to publish in their letters pages.
Speaking today, Ch Con Moore said: ”If we hadn’t been there I don’t know what would have happened.
”My fear, given that a number of them were intent on violence, is that we would have been knocking on parents’ doors telling them I regret to inform you that your child has been injured.
”I really felt this was really unacceptable. This is a perfectly decent town, with lots for young people to do. Where are the parents in the equation?
”We need to know where they [the children] are while on social networking sites and we need to know where they physically are.”
Ch Con Moore has served in the police force since 1975 and was previously the deputy Chief Constable at Surrey Police.
He worked his way up through the ranks in Lancashire Constabulary and the Metropolitan Police.
The father-of-two, who lives in Wiltshire, was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in the New Year Honours of 2008.
He was appointed to the post of Chief Constable at Wiltshire police in November 2007, and took up the post in January 2008.
Melksham is a small pretty market town with a population of around 23,000, situated on the banks of the Bristol River Avon.