Belfast Telegraph

Fury as yob attack on van forces council to withdraw wardens

By Donna Deeney

Residents in Londonderry have voiced disgust after an attack on the council's community safety wardens led them to withdraw from the Galliagh area.

Derry and Strabane District Council has not reinstated the workers since their van was hit by a barrage of stones earlier this week.

The area has been plagued by anti-social behaviour, including car crime, arson and criminal damage, and fears over a bonfire planned for August 15 has added to the stress people feel.

One woman, who has previously had her car damaged, said: "There is a gang of young people going around this place who are accountable to no one.

"They were racing cars until all hours and keeping everyone awake all night. They tried to get my car. Thankfully they didn't, but it wasn't badly damaged.

"Everyone is afraid to challenge them in case they try and burn your house down.

"The police have been about a bit more and I know they have lifted a couple of them, which is good, but now there is a lot of bother around a bonfire."

Another resident added: "We haven't had the community wardens here all week and we don't know if or when they will be back.

"Those wardens could have been hit with the stones and left maimed, but there is a gang of boys going around here who don't care who they hurt. I am dreading this weekend, because the wardens won't be here."

Martin Connolly from Community Restorative Justice said that youth workers had also been attacked.

"What happened (to the wardens) could have been a really severe incident, it was a targeted attack which could have ended a lot worse than it did.

"Whoever did that knew it was the wardens' van and knew what they were doing, so it wasn't a random attack.

"We are working with the council towards getting them back in the area because they do have the full support of the community, who know the sterling work they do."

Mr Connolly added: "The knock-on effect of the collecting of bonfire material is that a lot of smaller fires are being lit on almost a nightly basis and that is causing a lot of problems for residents."

Derry and Strabane District Council said a decision about returning the wardens to Galliagh had not yet been made.

It said: "Wardens have been withdrawn from the area until it is deemed safe for them to return to their regular duties.

"Council is in the process of working with local community representatives within the area to help ensure the team's safety."

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