Police have warned of the dangers of roof-top running after a young freerunner fell through a glass skylight in a town centre bank.
A young thrill-seeker fell through the skylight of a branch of Lloyd’s Bank on Haverhill’s High Street.
The freerunner escaped serious injury, but caused thousands of pounds worth of damage, prompting Haverhill police to issue a warning on the dangers associated with the sport.
The incident happened last Tuesday (July 29) afternoon when a young freerunner fell through the skylight of a branch of Lloyd’s Bank on Haverhill’s High Street.
“Climbing on buildings or engaging in the practice of ‘free running’ are both very dangerous activities,” said Sergeant Matt Gilbert of Haverhill Safer Neighbourhood Team.
“We would strongly warn people against participating in them.
“Not only is there a serious risk of injury to those involved, but they could also find themselves prosecuted for causing criminal damage to buildings or property.
“We would ask parents to warn their children of the implications of such behaviour and appeal to members of the public to contact police on 999 if they witness any incidents of this in progress.”
Acting inspector Stuart Manels said: “I appreciate the health aspect of the sport, but if they do fall, you have got damage to the property as well as them potentially hurting themselves.”
Freerunners in the town have, however, responded by calling for a better understanding of the sport and better facilities to accommodate its growing popularity.
Ben McConnell, 24, and Shane Griffin, 24, are freerunners from Haverhill. They’ve been training in the town for 10 years.
They both coach children and other young people in free running and argue that the sport does not deserve the stigma that has become associated with it.
They argue that free running can be a great way to keep fit and that, because of the sport’s negative associations, young people feel the need to try it out in secret.
Accidents would be less likely, they said, if young free runners had somewhere to train and didn’t feel like they were being pushed underground.
Ben said: “You can’t just reduce free running to the roof top running. There’s so much more to it than that.
“It’s about self-improvement. I think the person who had the accident was quite young. A lot of new people come into the sport and they all want to see how high they can jump from.
“They all want to do back flips. We’re careful not to be seen as vandals. We don’t damage anything and we always check out an area before we use it.”
Shane said: “Freerunning can really help your health. I think it’s good for kids. It’s not expensive and you don’t need any equipment.”
Free running is an urban sport which has become popular in recent years. It involves running a route and using architectural features as obstacles.
Variants of freerunning include parkour, which encourages runners to take the most direct route from A-B, and tricking, which incorporates more elaborate and spectacular physical stunts.
A drive to gain a designated parkour and free running area in Haverhill in 2011 eventually fizzled out due to a lack of funding.
Sessions are held at Haverhill leisure centre between 3pm and 4pm on Saturdays.