Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of a Co Londonderry town last night to protest over what they claim is a lack of confidence in the police's ability to clamp down on drug dealing and other anti-social behaviour.
The crowd gathered in the Heights/Killowen area of Coleraine and made their way through the town before handing a letter of complaint to police at the PSNI station.
Some of those taking part held placards reading ‘Police Service — What Police Service?’ and ‘Drug Dealing + Informing = Immunity’.
Local political representatives also took part, including the area’s DUP MLA Adrian McQuillan and councillor George Duddy, also of the DUP.
Mr Duddy handed over a letter of protest to a senior police officer outside the station, which the protesters requested be brought to the attention of Chief Constable Matt Baggott.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph after last night’s protest, Mr Duddy said people in the area are angry about what they perceive is a lack of action being taken by police against criminals.
“Probably since 2008, there has been a criminal gang who have been allowed to roam free,” he said.
“They are involved in drug-dealing, on-street drinking, anti-social behaviour, attacks on property and people.”
Mr Duddy continued: “We started monitoring the police’s response to these individuals as well as talking to our own community.
“This gang is of mixed religion and the only common bond they have is drugs, drinking and criminality.”
Mr Duddy said a number of residents told him they had reported criminal acts but, to date, they hadn’t been resolved by police. He also said there is a climate of fear among many locals with people feeling the need to arm themselves with bats and even fire pokers when going to bed.
One resident feels so intimidated they get a taxi to a local shop just 100 yards away rather than walk, said Mr Duddy.
“There was probably in the region of 800 to 900 people took part in the parade, which is more than we expected but it shows the support we have,” said Mr Duddy.
Another organiser — who didn’t want to be named — said policing in the area is “toothless”.