GANGS of wild children - some as young as five - are terrorising neighbours who are being forced to buy CCTV cameras to protect their homes.

Residents of Brunel Road and Hatford Road in Southcote told a public meeting the youngsters, aged between five and 15, have been damaging their homes, property and cars for more than two years.

The meeting, called by Reading West MP Alok Sharma with area police commander Superintendent Stuart Greenfield, at Southcote Primary School heard one woman claim that some of her despairing neighbours have already given up the fight.

She said: "These are just feral children. We just want to come home in the evening and not worry about this. Mr Sharma you are our last hope. We have tried everything else, but things have just got worse."

Worried neighbours stressed that the troublemakers come from a minority of families but attempts to reason with the parents meet with aggression and the meeting heard one household spent �600 on CCTV equipment in a bid to gather evidence.

Superintendent Greenfield and Mr Sharma promised to meet the residents affected and help them deal with the problem.

Mr Sharma said: "One of the issues in any area is that there are a number of families that are responsible for most of the problems.

"We are in tough times and there are some very difficult decisions being made regarding neighbourhood policing. But Thames Valley Police has been protecting front line services and the number of officers being recruited is actually increasing this year."

Superintendent Greenfield added: "Police enforcement activity on its own very rarely has long term results. We can send patrols at night, during the day or for a week. However, we cannot be there all the time and when we are gone people start doing it again.

"We take the concerns of residents very seriously and anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated."

After the meeting Southcote councillor Pete Ruhemann said: "I met senior council officers about this issue a fortnight ago and we had several people come to our surgery to talk about this problem. They are taking action on the situation.

"I would like to say we will have the troublemakers out tomorrow morning, but this is about behaviour and working with people and trying to make sure they understand the conditions under which they have to live."