‘Vigilance needed to reclaim Cowley park’
A PARK in Oxford has become a no-go area because of youth gangs, residents say.
People living near Cowley Marsh Park say they are often too scared to use it.
It comes as police investigate a mass brawl at the park, in which up to 12 youths fought with sticks and iron bars.
Marsh Road resident Hilda Walker said: “I used to use the park quite a bit until big gangs of youths went there.
“There were lots of them and it made you feel quite intimidated so I stopped. They would watch you as you walked past them.”
The pensioner added: “The bit where they had that fight was quite isolated so I don’t think anyone would have seen it.”
The fight in the park’s football cage on the evening of Tuesday, June 21, left two teenagers hospitalised – one 18-year-old needed surgery for fractures to his face.
A 17-year-old boy and 18-year-old man were arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm and bailed until August 16.
Mum-of-three Yasmin Sidhwa, who lives in Crescent Road, said she and her husband had asked her 15-year-old son not to visit the park when he goes out for a game of football.
She said: “Our kids will innocently be going down to play football and you just think who’s going to be there? Will they be after a fight?
“We used to feel safe in our local park but it’s now no longer that place that’s somewhere easy to go.
“I think it probably needs community policing until this goes away.”
She said that in comparison to nearby Florence Park, which is regularly patrolled by park wardens, she rarely saw a council or police presence in Marsh Park.
Cowley Marsh city councillor Saj Malik said: “Cowley Marsh Park has had problems in the past but that was dealt with well by police.
“There used to be a big problem with people bringing their dogs to the park to fight them but that doesn’t happen now.
“I am aware of these issues residents are having now and I think we need to be more vigilant.”
Back in 2007, Insp Graham Sutherland, Cowley area inspector, highlighted the park as being threatening and unfriendly and an area frequented by prostitutes.
In March last year, police spoke out about concerns the park was again being used by prostitutes.
Two months later a man was stabbed several times in the park while he played cricket. He was left in a serious condition in hospital.
Mr Malik added: “I am going to talk to our local police team to make sure our PCSOs are patrolling the park.
“We have such great facilities there, cricket nets and the football cage. It would be a shame if people feel they can’t use them.”
Police said the incident was an argument which had spiralled out of control and was not believed to be linked to gang violence.
Last night, Sgt Andy Heelas from the Cowley Marsh neighbourhood team said: “Every time we are on duty our police officers or support officers go in one part of the park or another so we are in there most days.
“We have not had any problems in the park other than this one incident.”