Belfast Telegraph

Gang of around 100 youths smash up cars and force woman from home

By Michael Sheils McNamee

A gang of around 100 youths have smashed up cars and forced a woman into emergency accommodation after going on a rampage in north Belfast.

On Saturday night police responded to reports of separate incidents between Brookvalue Avenue and Oldpark Avenue.

At around 9.20pm officers attended a home in the Brookvale Avenue area, where the householder - a woman in her 50s - said a group of youths had damaged her front and inner door.

It is understood the resident came to Northern Ireland as a refugee from Sudan, and the incident is not being treated as a hate crime.

Social Services was required to provide the woman with alternative accommodation arrangements on Saturday night.

SDLP councillor Paul McCusker arrived at the property while the gang of young people, aged between 13 and 19, were still outside.

Mr McCusker said he estimated there were around 80 young people at the scene, with around half of them standing in the street and half inside the fence of the Waterworks park.

"Residents are at the end of their tether with this on-going behaviour dominating the area at weekends," he said.

"It is despicable that a refugee, who left her war torn country for a better life, has been removed from her home by the PSNI for her own safety after thugs attempted to gain access to the property during the disorder.

"All residents, no matter class or creed, have the right to live in peace, free from intimidation and fear. I would urge the teenagers and young adults partaking in this disruption to stop and think of the consequences."

Earlier in the evening, at around 7.45pm, police responded to a report from the nearby Oldpark Avenue area of around 100 youths banging on doors, drinking, running up and down the street, and jumping on and damaging cars.

Police did not confirm if the incidents were linked, although SDLP councillor McCusker said he believed it was the same group of young people.

Inspector James Murphy said: “We are continually issuing appeals, asking parents and guardians to ensure they know where their children are, what they are doing and who they are with. Yet, we are still regularly called upon to attend incidents of anti-social behaviour to deal with young people who are at times gathering up in large numbers.

“The majority of young people out enjoying themselves, meeting up with friends over the weekends are well behaved, but unfortunately the behaviour of some is having a huge impact on the community."

He added that "what might seem like fooling about can often result in a criminal record" and said police would continue to work with local politicians and representatives.

Mr McCusker added the incidents were part of a wider problem with anti-social behaviour in the area, with young people travelling in from other parts of the city to the Waterworks, Marrowbone Park, and Alexandra Park.

Anyone with any information about anti-social behaviour is asked to contact police on 101.

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