A MASS brawl involving tens of young people broke out in a shopping centre this weekend, which kept police occupied for hours.

The disturbance broke out at Walkden Town Centre Shopping Centre, on Bolton Road in Walkden, on Saturday evening when a gang of up to 40 young people began fighting among each other, abusing staff and causing criminal damage.

Police were called to the scene and remained there for around four hours in an attempt to restore order, during which time a police car had a tyre punctured.

A Greater Manchester Police spokesman said: "This behaviour will not be tolerated, it is intimidating to shoppers and dangerous for the young people, who were also running between cars causing vehicles to perform emergency stops.

"This is a message directly to parents do you know where your children are?

"Behaviour like this may seem low-level but has a major impact on businesses and police resources, just as they are most stretched.

"Police have been on scene tonight for over four hours where there resources could have been dealing with serious crime.

"Parents please speak to your children to ensure they are not involved in criminal activity.

"The full use of police powers, including arrest and charging of offenders can and will be used for offenders, we do not want to criminalise young people but nor can we have this criminality being carried out by young people.

"Often young people do not realise how their behaviour is effecting others such as elderly shoppers and other victims of crime or the impact criminal activity can have on their future, so please speak to your children if you suspect their involvement."

Officers have pledged to step up patrols in the area over coming weeks and months and say that they will be working with nearby schools to identify the young people involved.