Residents in south Belfast are delighted with the news that more alleyways will be sealed up to prevent the cocktail of crime and anti-social behaviour they have experienced since the 1980s.
This week consultation has gone out to homes along the Lisburn Road area on the proposed alleygate scheme, after £500,000 funding was granted by Belfast City Council in March.
Local man, John Copeland who fought a long campaign with other residents to introduce and increase the number of gates in residential streets off the Lisburn Road, said: “We had a high amount of break-ins before the first lot of alleygates were installed in the pilot scheme three years ago. I would say people who have had a break-in in our area have dropped by about 95%.
“We also had a lot of people who would drink down the alleys, especially during football matches, where you would get men urinating up our walls. There was a bad litter problem too.
“Now you see children out playing in the alleys — it’s a lot safer and there’s not dog mess in the alleys like there once was. It has made a brilliant difference to us.
“However, the problem of loitering drinking gangs and burglaries have not gone away from the area, it has just moved to the other side of the street where no alleygates exist.
“We therefore really welcome this funding from the council and welcome the consultation. I must say, Gavin Bell, the project officer for alleygating at the council, and his team have done a brilliant job in making this happen.”
SDLP MLA Conal McDevitt told the CT: “My constituency office has had numerous complaints from people regarding anti-social behaviour in alleyways. Therefore the decision to consult with residents using a questionnaire is welcomed by myself, and my constituents.
“I would urge people living in the areas being targeted by the council to respond to the questionnaire to illustrate positive community response for these alleygates.
“Alleygates are particularly helpful to alleviate anti-social behaviour and reducing crime, therefore would prove to be of a huge benefit.”
Resident Mr Copeland has heard of the lengths some thieves will go to since the introduction to the alleygates down his street and for once, the tales of attempted crime can actually make him chuckle.
He said: “In the lead up to last Christmas, a thief — undeterred with the high gates, attempted to lift a motorbike over them.”
Unsurprisingly, he didn’t get very far with his awkwardly shaped and heavy laden swag.
Mr Copeland laughs: “He went to desperate lengths — after trying to lift it, he pressed the buzzer to residents, asking them to let ‘him in’ to the alley, even though he was wanting to head out.
“The resident who answered the voicecom caught on straight away and called the police. The young man quickly scampered away.”
However, Mr Copeland has heard that one landlord so far has rejected the offer of the new alleygates.
He said: “Landlords don’t have to live here, they don’t know what it’s like for those of us who have to put up with this crime.”