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Heavy police presence in Belfast's Holyland area welcomed in 'crackdown' ahead of St Patrick's Day

By Claire Williamson and Allan Preston

A heavy police presence in Belfast's Holyland area on Wednesday night has been defended ahead of St Patrick's Day.

Multiple police Land Rovers were patrolling the south Belfast area while officers also patrolled on foot.

The area has become infamous in recent years for large numbers of young people taking part in anti-social behaviour to the distress of residents.

Read more:

St Patrick's Day fears for Belfast Holyland residents as students planning massive outdoor party 

Two Facebook page events have been set up calling for thousands of people to come into the area on March 17.

On Wednesday night the Belfast Telegraph saw one student sweeping up a broken glass table on the road just after 9.45pm.

Images began circulating on social media with one calling it "mayhem".

One student said: "I saw crowds of people up at the top of the street, to be honest I didn't see any real trouble going on, it was just noise complaints.

"It is bad tonight compared to what I would usually see. I've never seen the likes of this before."

Other students in the area were critical of the police presence.

Another student who did not wish to be named said: "People were ready to go out and having a few drinks.

"Everyone was in their houses and after a while the police vans came. It actually got people out of their houses to see what was going on. If the police didn't come everyone would still be inside.

"There was no need for 12 Land Rovers and police with riot gear. People are just having a sociable drink."

Ray Farley of the Holyland Regeneration Association said he welcomed the police presence in a bid to "crack down" on any potential disturbances before it kicks off.

He said: "The police had said they were going to try and make a presence so that if anything did kick off to try and nip it in the bud.

"Although it hadn't been scheduled to start this early. But if they are sitting ready and waiting it's better to be there.

"It's to set the agenda that we aren't going to let people get away with this sort of behaviour.

"It does happen all the time, it's not just St Patrick's day and it was a reasonable day today weather wise - so that's possibly what happened and it spills on.

"It's not simply St Patrick's, Freshers or Halloween it's ongoing. "

He added: "Any night during the week of term time there will be something happening and a disturbance of some description.

"It's to let people know you can't get away with it.

"There was a party the night before St Patrick's Day last year which got out of hand and it was a mini-riot they called it at the time, which was unfortunate.

"That's the plan to crack down on anything before it kicks off."

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