Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Holyland residents 'under siege' during Freshers Week antics

Residents describe mayhem, partying and drunkenness - three arrests

By Claire Williamson

Three arrests have been made in the Holyland area of Belfast as students return for the Freshers Week ahead of the start of the University year.

In recent years the Holyland in south Belfast has become infamous for large numbers of young people taking part in anti-social behaviour to the distress of residents. There were similar incidents this time last year as students arrived and took up accommodation in the area.

Police said that one of the problems they face is having to repeat the work they do each year as each new batch of students descend on the area to begin university life.

Since September 10 there have been 68 incidents recorded by Belfast City Council with 61 of (89%) resolved with advice while seven (11%) were handed warnings. Of those there were 52 on-street drinking incidents, 12 were noise related, three for rowdy behaviour and one for an unsecured property.

Those arrested were held on suspicion of disorderly behaviour.

Chair of the College Park Avenue Residents Association Brid Ruddy said residents felt like the area was "under siege" this week.

She told the BBC Nolan Show on Wednesday: "I think most of the residents in the area feel like it's groundhog day with Fresher's each year, St Patrick's Day each year, thousands of drunk people on our streets, we are expected to put up with it and frankly we are fed up with it."

Brid described Tuesday night as "general mayhem, partying in houses, drunkenness on the street".

She added: "It's a state of siege for the residents - we stay in our houses."

PSNI Inspector Jamie Hughes said there have been three arrests this week and that there was a police presence in the area with officers breaking up parties by emptying houses.

He said: "I was on the ground last night til 2am. I didn't witness the full extent of behaviour described. What I did witness was large numbers of young people generally going out to pubs and clubs and coming back being noisy, having parties. We had a significant police operation in place in the area up until four in the morning.

"We had police officers on foot in high-vis jackets, 12 police officers and TSG support plus the council."

"It's a huge community impact over a number of years and for the students it's their first year to arrive and it's a whole new behaviour - for residents its something they put up with for years."

However Inspector Hughes said the issue lies in that they have to "repeat" everything they do this year when the new group of students arrive next year.

Inspector Hughes said: "So far there have been three arrests over the past two days and there have been a number of people reported and given tickets.

"What I witnessed last night, it wasn't high levels of criminal behaviour people breaking things or smashing things."

Ray Farley of the Holyland Regeneration Association said stronger penalties need to be enforced to deter future offences.

He said: "It is seen as somewhere where the rule of law, as far as drinking and bad behaviour, is relaxed a bit.

"I do feel there needs to be stronger action. If you look at some of the actions warning or advice. A warning, it's hardly a penalty and it's a bit ridiculous.

"To use the expression groundhog day, we are just visiting the same thing year on year. It's so frustrating for people that live there, you shouldn't have to educate people to behave well.

"But it just seems to be that people will drift in because they see it as somewhere you can have a laissez-fair attitude towards a lot of things you can't get away with in other area. It's very depressing actually."

A spokeswoman for Queen's University Belfast said: “Queen’s will fully investigate any complaints or reports of anti-social behaviour. A strict off-campus disciplinary code is in place, and if any Queen’s student is found to have brought the University into disrepute, they will be subject to the full rigours of this code.”

In addition Ulster University also said it "does not tolerate anti-social behaviour and has robust disciplinary processes in place to deal with any incidences, as and when they are reported to us by the council or the PSNI".

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