Belfast Telegraph

Thugs take over parks: Rise in drug and drink crime

By Rebecca Black

A number of Belfast parks have been blighted with drink and drug-addled youths - some as young as 12 - as well as organised fights.

Sinn Fein councillor Steven Corr revealed that last weekend more than 100 young people gathered at Falls Park both drinking and taking drugs, describing the situation as "unbelievable".

DUP councillor Gavin Robinson said organised fights have also become an increasing problem at Ormeau Park.

In May a 12-year-old was one of a number of people arrested following an arranged fight in the south Belfast park.

Mr Robinson described the situation as a “major problem” as a Belfast City Council report revealed that the number of anti-social incidents in some parks have more than quadrupled.

Four areas across Belfast saw a stark rise in the number of anti-social behaviour incidents between December 2013 and April 2014 compared to the same period the year before.

The worst by far was Upper Falls where 142 incidents were recorded, five times as many as the previous year when just 28 were recorded.

The next worst was the Pottinger area in east Belfast where the incidents increased from 40 to 104.

In the Laganbank area of south Belfast the incidents rose from 16 to 77 and in the Victoria area of east Belfast the numbers increased from just six to 34.

These recorded incidents include criminal damage, setting fires, public drinking, trespass and vehicle nuisance.

The overall number of incidents at parks across the city has shot up to 441 between December 2013 and April 2014, from 281 in the same period last year.

Mr Robinson described the increases as “stark”.

“This is a major problem. You only have to turn on the radio in the morning to hear that not only do we have instances of drinking in our parks and dog fouling and all the criminal damage, but also organised fights,” he told council at its monthly meeting on Tuesday.

“We are entering a summer when there will be issues and I hope that the will in this council and the will in our communities will be that those issues do not build upon some of the tense relations we have had over the last number of weeks,” he said.

“But if this is an indication of anything to go by, then it is pretty discouraging. It is something

that we as a council need to see a little bit more action on.”

Sinn Fein councillor Steven Corr said what the council has been doing to date is “not working”.

“Over Friday and Saturday night I received numerous numerous phone calls from people about ongoing activity in the Falls Park, parents who had to rush to bring their children out of it,” he said.

“We have all worked very hard to get people into the parks, we have brought extra resources in. We encourage people to go in.

“What we had in Falls Park on Friday and Saturday night was unbelievable, upwards of 100 people, some as young as 12, drunk, full of drugs and in many cases both.

“What we are doing to date isn’t working. The wardens, the rangers, the co-ordination needs to be much greater across our city especially in our parks.”

Mr Corr added that there has been an “explosion” of anti-social behaviour since the schools finished for the summer.

“Every time there is good weather, our parks get hammered,” he said.

Factfile

Incidents by city wards, December 13-April 14:

Balmoral 19

Castle 18

Court 7

Laganbank 77

Lower Falls 8

Oldpark 32

Pottinger 104

Upper Falls 142

Victoria 34

Total 441

December 12-April 13

Balmoral 23

Castle 34

Court 35

Laganbank 16

Lower Falls 14

Oldpark 85

Pottinger 40

Upper Falls 28

Victoria 6

Total 281

(Belfast City Council figures)

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