Belfast Telegraph

Prosecute the parents of hoods aged 11: Residents in Derry

By Donna Deeney

Social Services could be called in to help tackle a spate of anti-social behaviour in Londonderry amid fears children aged no older than 11 are involved.

Residents in the Creggan area of the city say they are too afraid to leave their homes in the evenings or to confront marauding gangs behind a series of arson attacks and extreme vandalism.

A number of agencies, including the Social Services, have agreed to round table talks to find a collective response that will restore order in the troubled area.

People living in the Central Drive area of Derry say parents of underage children who are in the gang should be prosecuted.

One woman, who did not want to be named for fear of retaliation, said: "I sit at night and watch these wee hoods wrecking the place. Some of them, I would say, are still at primary school – they look about 10 or 11.

"In my day, you could have gone out and chastised them and chased them home, but you would get your house burned down now if you did that, and the parents don't seem to care about them.

"There is something badly wrong if a young boy is able to get drunk or whatever, and their parents don't know or care.

"It is time they were held to account if they can't control their own children."

Over the past few nights, a number of arson attacks have taken place, including the burning of a bakery van and toys belonging to the Holy Child Nursery.

Cars and property have also been vandalised.

The situation has escalated so much that an emergency meeting has been called between local political representatives, Community Restorative Justice, Apex Housing, the Housing Executive, community wardens, the PSNI and the Fire and Rescue Service.

Sinn Fein councillor Colly Kelly said the answer to the problems was complex and would involve a collective response.

He explained: "There is a real will to address this anti-social behaviour, but the solution will have to be collective with every interested party. That includes parents all pulling together.

"The level of anti-social behaviour has gone beyond what any reasonable community could tolerate, and it does involve some very young people, so bringing the Social Services in is a real possibility."

Councillor Kelly also addressed suggestions that the PSNI could not control the situation because of a lack of co-operation from Creggan residents.

"The suggestion that has been expressed that the police are not welcome or wanted in Creggan is nonsense, and they will be at this meeting," he said.

"The overwhelming majority of people that we have spoken to want to live in a normal society, and they know that a police service is part of that and they have no difficulties with that.

Neighbourhood inspector for the area Alan Hutton said: "I refute that there is no support for police in the Creggan area.

"We are getting support from the community and have had great success in recent years. However, this is always something that we would like more of.

"I do recognise that for some members of the public, it is difficult for them to show support of the police.

"I would like to offer assurance that we are committed to providing a police service for all members of the community.

"Our primary focus is always about keeping people safe."

He added that police "have been working closely with community representatives and elected representatives from all political parties across all parts of the city, including Creggan, for a long time".

"This includes regular meetings with the Community Safety Teams to discuss and to deal with the issues important to the community.

"A meeting is due to take place soon to discuss anti-social behaviour in the Creggan area," Mr Hutton added.

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