Belfast Telegraph

Ocean of booze is seized at beach as cops crack down on public drinking

BY Chris Kilpatrick

More than 1,000 bottles and cans of alcohol were seized by police in a matter of hours at one of Northern Ireland's most popular beauty spots.

The huge haul, including beer, spirits and alcopops, was taken off drinkers by police at Helen's Bay on the north Down coast.

The beach in the affluent area was thronged on Wednesday as thousands enjoyed the warm temperatures.

Frustrated residents yesterday said young people, many who had travelled from other places, had been "running amok" every night in the past week.

Some spent several hours picking up rubbish strewn across the picturesque strand.

One said he had seen groups of teenagers "throwing up, throwing drink and generally abusing everyone".

Police officers were dispatched to Crawfordsburn Country Park on Wednesday to allay residents' concerns of a repeat of trouble that has blighted the area in recent summers.

Two years ago riot squad officers had to patrol the beach in the popular park after brawls between drunken youths.

The shocking amount of alcohol seized this week came on the same day the PSNI joined with Translink and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency to launch a campaign to tackle illegal drinking in the area.

Police patrols have been stepped up in recent days, with the PSNI warning anybody caught breaking the law faces being hit with a £500 fine.

The force said the consumption of drink on the beach would not be tolerated over the coming summer months.

"We want people to come to this area and have a good day out with friends and family, which the majority of people who were there yesterday did," PSNI Inspector Lisa Bell told the Belfast Telegraph.

"But we also want people to act responsibly and with consideration for others.

"Drinking alcohol in a public area will not be tolerated and can be confiscated, and anti-social behaviour will be dealt with in a robust manner."

Insp Bell said officers were present at a train station and people heading towards Crawfordsburn Country Park stopped if they were carrying alcohol.

The officer confirmed that one 20-year-old male was arrested for disorderly behaviour. He was later issued with a penalty notice and released.

"We regularly patrol beauty spots such as Crawfordsburn Country Park and Helen's Bay at this time of year as there is the normal influx of members of the public wanting to enjoy themselves in the sunshine," she added.

Nikki Ardill, Crawfordsburn Country Park warden, said visitors must respect local people and others enjoying the attraction.

"Of all the country parks in Northern Ireland, Crawfordsburn has the greatest number of visitors," she said. "If we all follow the rules and report incidents or concerns to the park staff, we can all have a great day."

Translink said alcohol was not permitted on its trains or buses.

Allistair Kitson from the company said staff would confiscate drink from passengers or bar them from the using the service again.

Meanwhile, police in the Republic yesterday tweeted images of a large haul of alcohol confiscated from beach-goers enjoying the heatwave.

The bottles and cans were seized, also on Wednesday, on Portmarnock beach, outside Dublin.

Yesterday more than 200 bags of rubbish were collected on the beach by council staff.

BACKGROUND

Two years ago riot police had to patrol Helen's Bay when a huge contingent of revellers descended. More than five tonnes of rubbish were cleared following a party organised through Facebook that ended with drunken brawls between groups of youths. Last year a dump was set up at the beach entrance to collect alcohol, while two police Land Rovers, a highway patrol car and a police motorcycle patrolled the area.

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