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Drunken teenagers ruin day out at the beach as families are forced to flee

By Rebecca Black and David Young

Published 10/04/2015

Police watch: A patrol car keeps observation as youths gather in Crawfordsburn Park
Police watch: A patrol car keeps observation as youths gather in Crawfordsburn Park
Belfast man Alfie McCrory

A family has claimed they felt forced to leave a popular local beach because of the behaviour of drunken youths.

Crowds flocked to Crawfordsburn Country Park in north Down yesterday as the unseasonably warm weather continued.

But Belfast man Alfie McCrory said he left early with his family because he did not feel it was safe for them.

His young daughters - who are aged just four and eight - had been playing in the sea at around 2.30pm when a crowd of 100 youths, openly drinking and swearing, came walking along, he said.

"We had to leave because of this big crowd of kids, they were singing and shouting - the language was 'f**k the RUC' and 'f**k the PSNI'.

"It felt very unsafe to keep the kids there around that. It was very intimidating.

"They were running around openly with drink in their hands. Some looked no more than 14 years of age. There was well over 100 of them."

When the Belfast Telegraph reporter went to the park yesterday evening there was a sea of litter, including beer cans, left on the beach, around 200 young people, many of whom appeared drunk, and crude sectarian chanting

The PSNI said they maintained a presence along the beach during the day, but no arrests had been made.

At least four police vehicles were on the scene, as well as an emergency ambulance.

Park Manager Nikki Ardill said the day had passed without any serious injuries or arrests.

She revealed the park management do a lot of background monitoring and liaison with the PSNI and also Translink to ensure they know when large crowds of young people are heading for the park.

"That lets us put in place our contingency plans for handling these kinds of situation," she said.

"We actively try to steer families away from the part of the park where the young people have gathered. It seemed to have worked today."

Mr McCrory - who is a community worker in the Woodvale area of Belfast - said more needs to be done to tackle underage drinking.

"Every time the sun comes out, either in Crawfordsburn or other locations, the drinking starts," he said.

"Underage drinking is getting out of hand, yet no one seems to be doing anything about it.

"Parents need to be taking this in hand.

"Our experience at Crawfordsburn was very intimidating and my child was very upset, she had to leave the beach.

"I could see other families leaving too, not a mass exit, but a number of young families packing up and walking out looking disgusted and shaking their heads."

Others visiting the park yesterday were also intimidated

The Belfast Telegraph spoke to one woman who regularly walked the coastal path between Helen's Bay and Bangor, and was too frightened to give her name.

"They frightened the life out of me. Scared the daylights out of me," she said.

"They were screaming in the bushes - who knows what they were up to - but the police soon stepped in and sorted them out."

Kathryn Boyd, from Belfast, who was with her partner and child, said the crowd of youths, bottles being thrown and drunken behaviour had shocked her.

"We've gone out of our way to avoid them," she said. "While it is reassuring to see the police here, I think it's really a waste of police resources for them to have to deal with this kind of behaviour."

Kelly, from Bangor, was there with her three children, and said the sight of police Land Rovers at the beach sends the message there could be trouble.

"We decided to stay well away from where the teenagers were, just in case," she said.

Factfile

Crawfordsburn Country Park, located on the north Down coastline, is a firm family favourite with its woods and beach access. It is especially popular during the summer months, any time we experience some sunshine.

However, there have been complaints from young families for a number of years about underage drinking. Park staff say they liaise with both the PSNI and also Translink to prepare for crowds. They say they have contingency plans for handling such situations.

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