YOUNGSTERS have been warned about engaging in anti-social behaviour following a frightening incident in which leisure centre staff had to lock themselves inside the building.

Police were called to Grange Leisure in Stratton at around 9.20pm on Monday, September 4 after reports that a group of around 30 youths were intimidating people, with one lout brandishing a hammer.

As a result, staff at Grange Leisure have warned they take a zero-tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour and that police will be called immediately if problems persist.

Chris Matthews, senior food and beverage officer at Grange Leisure, was one of the staff members who witnessed last week’s incident.

He said: “We do have a bit of a problem with anti-social behaviour here. Usually we just move them on and they generally behave themselves, but last week was a bit different.”

Chris said that a small group had come into the leisure centre to use the facilities.

When staff questioned them, the youths turned aggressive and said that more were on their way and “someone was going to get hammered”.

Chris said: “Around 25 or 30 youths had gathered at the bottom of our car park. I went out to check what was going on and three guys aged between 17 and 20 and all wearing black hoodies and scarves around their faces approached.

“One then pulled out a hammer and started swinging it around. At that point I phoned 999, locked the centre and kept everybody inside.

“The police came straight away and started searching the youths, though no hammer was found at that point, the lads obviously discarding it.”

Police confirmed that no weapon had been found and that the group was sent on its way after being given words of advice by officers.

Chris said he thought Grange Leisure a likely meeting point for the gang before they go off to other locations.

“Luckily it was quite a quiet night, but for staff it was a really scary thing,” said Chris.

“We want to warn people that anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated around here and we encourage people to report it to the police as soon as they see it.”

Police also advised people to call 999 immediately if they ever see a situation like this develop.