Belfast crackdown on scrambler bike scourge as complaints rise
Belfast City Council is clamping down on the use of scramblers in parks after an increase in the number of complaints about antisocial behaviour despite the death of a woman in an motorbike accident this year.
A number of parks across the north and west of the city have been singled out for attention after locals and politicians voiced concerns to the council.
The issue was brought into sharp focus following the death of 35-year-old mother Valerie Armstrong (below), who was killed in a scrambler collision in Colin Glen Forest Park in July.
Following Mrs Armstrong's death, the PSNI issued a warning reminding the public of the dangers of improper use of scramblers and other vehicles.
However, it would appear the appeal fell on deaf ears, with an undisclosed number of people since complaining about scramblers being ridden illegally in Girdwood, Cavehill Country Park, Dunville Park, and the Waterworks.
Antisocial behaviour in parks across Belfast was discussed at the City Council's People and Communities Committee meeting earlier this month.
The issue was raised after an increase in the number of complaints about crime and bad behaviour in open spaces.
Concerns were also raised about a group of 150 young people who roam across open spaces in the city.
"This group can be under the influence of alcohol and drugs and is often determined to remain detached from existing structured youth provision in their own communities," the People and Communities Committee was told.
A total of seven parks or open spaces have been at the forefront of the problem in recent months.
n At Girdwood, in the north of the city, criminal damage, abuse of residents, rowdy behaviour and inappropriate use of scramblers has been reported. The behaviour was described as "unpredictable" and could happen on any night of the week. In the other parks the activity was reported mostly at the weekend at during school holidays.
n At Marrowbone Park, also in the north of the city, criminal damage, vandalism, trespass, drinking, night fires, drug use and bad behaviour was reported.
n At Falls Park and the City Cemetery, both in the west of the city, criminal damage, vandalism, the lighting of fires, burnt out vehicles, inappropriate vehicle use, drinking, drug use and rowdy and nuisance behaviour were reported.
n At Lagan Towpath, in south Belfast, there have been multiple reports of under-age drinking.
n At Cave Hill Country Park, in the north of the city, criminal damage, graffiti, drinking, inappropriate use of scramblers and rowdy and nuisance behaviour were reported.
n At Dunville Park, in west Belfast, there has been drinking, nuisance behaviour and inappropriate use of scramblers.
n At Whiterock, which is also in west Belfast, possible damage to a new playground facility has been reported.
The committee heard that work to crack down on the problem was ongoing. This includes fortnightly operational planning meetings to monitor concerns and develop responses and visible patrols of council officers and when required the PSNI.
It also includes visits to off-licences around parks and open spaces to give advice and guidance on the consequences of selling alcohol to minors.