Residents 'living in fear' as anti-social behaviour rises
Levels of anti-social behaviour have more than doubled in north Belfast sparking calls for action to tackle the problem that has left residents "living in fear".
New figures gathered by Belfast City Council show that between December 2012 and April 2013 there were 76 incidents of anti-social behaviour reported in the Oldpark area.
This is compared to 37 during the same period in 2011 and 2012.
Setting fires, rowdy behaviour and drinking are causing residents serious concerns as well as graffiti and animal problems.
But politicians say many incidents go unreported and say residents are forced to live "under fear"– especially at weekends when youths gather in parks.
Now a programme of mobile CCTV and joint operations involving the PSNI and city council will be introduced to 'hotspots'. Council park wardens will work with the PSNI to tackle the problem.
The figures show that from December 2012 to April 2013 anti-social behaviour spiked especially in public parks near Oldpark, Pottinger and Balmoral.
In north Belfast, the problem rose in Alexandra and Waterworks parks. Cases of such behaviour dropped within the Court, Castle and Laganbank areas – where incidents fell from 52 to nine.
Incidents rose in Orangefield and Ormeau parks in the east.
The report said there was a need to improve access to deter inappropriate vehicle use.
The SDLP's Nichola Mallon said residents in the Oldpark area were plagued by anti-social behaviour.
"There is a serious problem of anti-social behaviour in our parks in this part of North Belfast," she said. "Sadly I would say in reality the situation is much worse than the statistics identify because of the levels of under reporting to the PSNI and the city council.
"You only have to speak with residents who live near the Waterworks, Alexandra Park or Marrowbone Millennium Park to know how serious the problem is and the fear they are forced to live under especially at weekends."
Ideas to help tackle the problem include Young Adult Association areas.
Mobile CCTV and more joint PSNI and Belfast City Council patrols in 'hotspots' are planned.
But Ms Mallon said residents need to report anti-social activity because resources are targeted to where there are complaints.
She added: "We also need to make these parks user friendly.
"Experience in other areas has proven that when people are in parks for the right reasons, playing with their children, walking their dogs or holding local sports days, those with bad intent move on."