Community councillors asked PC Calum Wilson what the police could do to stop hordes of youths openly drinking and causing problems in the town at the bells.
Melrose has not hosted an official fireworks celebration of the new year since 2017, but that has not stopped under-age youths using the Market Square as a meeting place, said members of the town’s community council.
Local butcher and community councillor Martin Baird said: “It’s terrible, and it’s getting worse year on year.”
He said he did not know how his shop window made it through the night unscathed after reviewing his CCTV footage.
And Val Miller said: “It is a pity the message has not got through even after two years of not having fireworks.”
PC Wilson said he was not on duty that night, but added there was a limit to what could be done, given available resources.
He said: “Say there were six police officers there, and there are two arrests made ... that means four officers would have to leave the scene, leaving two officers and 198 youths.”
Community council chairman William Windram asked: “You’re not telling us police are allowing criminal activity to take place in the square?”
PC Wilson replied: “We are trying to do the best we can with the resources we have.
“There is a degree of responsibility on the parents of these children.
“It’s midnight, and their kids are out on the street drinking.”
Mr Windram said: “People feel intimidated if there are a lot of young people out of control.”
And Mr Baird said it was affecting the tourist trade.
He said: “People are saying they are not coming back next year to stay in the hotels.
“There’s enough pressure on the High Street as it is, without all this going on.
“I do feel for the police in this situation ... what if it all kicks off and they jump on you guys?”
Mrs Miller asked PC Wilson: “Can we request extra police presence at New Year? Come down heavy-handed on the whole situation?”
PC Wilson replied: “There are only so many extra police officers in the Borders, and there are a lot of towns.”
He added that the youths appeared to organise their meetings via social media, which would explain why so many turn up at once.
He said: “They do the same at the sevens weekend.”