TACKLING anti-social behaviour by young people in Helensburgh doesn’t necessarily mean giving them more things to do – it may mean providing somewhere that they can be themselves.

That was the advice handed out to members of the town’s community council this week as they discussed recent incidents of vandalism in Hermitage Park.

Helensburgh Community Council (HCC) had asked Police Scotland for more information on how anti-social behaviour by young people had been tackled elsewhere in Scotland, in the hope of learning lessons for Helensburgh.

But potential solutions, HCC was told, may lie rather closer to home.

Asked whether local young people had been asked what they wanted to see in Hermitage Park, Rosie Sumsion, who represents the Helensburgh and Lomond Youth Forum on HCC, said: “In a lot of cases they don’t want something to do, they want somewhere they can be themselves.

“For a lot of young people there’s much more going on than clubs and organisations.

“Many can’t commit to a regular weekly club because of weekend jobs, studying for exams and so on.

“A lot of the young people who are using the park at the moment are not engaging with what we’re doing as a youth forum at the moment, and we need to look at how we’re communicating with them.”

HCC member Barbara Caldwell added: “There are young people out there who don’t want to be organised.

“It’s a question of working with them on the right thing to be, not the right thing to do.”

Fellow community councillor Nigel Millar added: “This conversation has been a regular one for a while now.

“I’ve always taken the view that there’s plenty for young people to do, but what I’ve learned tonight is that the traditional solutions haven’t worked in that respect. We need to think outside the box rather than saying ‘it’s all their fault’.”

PC Sarah Cheesman, from Police Scotland in Helensburgh, admitted that there had been an increase in vandalism incidents in Helensburgh as a whole between late October and late November, though she also told the meeting that a new ‘youth engagement officer’ for the area was due to start work in early January.

The new officer, PC Stephen Carr, who is currently based in Lochgoilhead, will replace PC Craig Stamp, who left the area in October for a new role elsewhere within Police Scotland.

PC Carr will also oversee the work of the new Police Scotland Young Volunteers group in Helensburgh.