Children as young as 10 "smoking drugs" in Hardwicke youth shelter
IT is feared children as young as 10 are smoking marijuana in a drug-fuelled youth den which is 'blighting' a village community.
Drug dealing and taking have become the norm at a youth shelter at Hardwicke's playing fields, it has been claimed.
A gang of around 10 youths are now being monitored by police in a crackdown on the anti-social behaviour.
Dog walker Tim Jones, from Elmgrove Road East, said: "We have got 10-year-old kids smoking marijuana.
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"When I walk past there you can see hundreds of wraps thrown around."
Parish council chairman councillor Ian Butler said: "We need to catch them early before they end up doing crack cocaine. It is going to lead onto something worse if we are not careful.
"We don't like this sort of activity because it blights the village. We will not accept it."
Mr Butler told a parish council meeting last week that he wanted to avoid having a police dispersal order placed on the area to move the youngsters on.
He added: "I don't think we want this sort of thing here in Hardwicke because it creates the wrong image for what is otherwise a decent community."
Questions remain over whether the parish council will keep the shelter which it installed four years ago.
Councillor David Moss, vice chairman, said: "Removing the shelter is going to take the problem elsewhere.
"We have got to get to the root of the problem rather than just move it around."
CCTV with night vision is monitoring the shelter 24 hours a day and police are pouring over the images.
PC Lucy Kay, area officer, told the parish council: "We have not yet had any positive drug searches but that doesn't mean to say that it is not going on. We need to get these individuals for the offences they are committing."