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Social media used to arrange violence

Council candidates in the Newtownabbey area have been complaining about anti-social violence planned by youths, and the laxity of court decisions in dealing with anti-social crime.

Over the Easter period there have been a number of reported incidents of anti-social behaviour within the Newtownabbey, Mossley and Monkstown area.

On Monday, April 25 it was reported that a group of up to 50 youths were fighting in the Fernagh area of Newtownabbey and that damage was also caused to a park in the area.

Community worker Stephen Ross said he was asked to go to the area in order to try and restore the peace for the residents.

He said it is thought that alcohol had been taken by many of the people involved and this led to the disturbances.

“I would like to condemn this incident which has taken up valuable resources within the Newtownabbey area and I would call upon parents to know where their children are,” Mr Ross said.

“No one wants or expects young people not to want to have fun, but the cost of their fun should not have to be borne by rate payers and tax payers within this area, nor should local families and residents have to tolerate such violent and frightening behaviour.”

Of the court rulings he said: “There were youths from the Newtownabbey area brought before the courts for numerous breeches of their ASBO and bail conditions.

“Yet again the courts decided that the best course of action was to release these individuals despite them having contravened their conditions numerous times before.” He said he wanted the courts to look at how it deals with offenders.

“What message does this send to other young people except to say that you can behave how you like and there are minimal consequences,” he said.

Phil Hamilton, PUP council candidate for Newtownabbey is also concerned about the violence that he said has been “simmering” for at least two years.

“I would urge people to be responsible parents. A lot of these children are not from the area — there are youths coming from Glengormley and the Shore Road,” he said.

Mr Hamilton said he had been told by residents that the youths had been using text messages and Facebook to arrange what he called “recreational sectarian violence”.

“The police need to be more visible to combat these incidents, but we need a multiple agency approach. We do a lot of work to try to minimise this but there only about 10 of us,” he continued.

Mr Hamilton said the numbers were a “drop in the ocean” when the incidents of violence had been spreading to other areas such as Monkstown and Glenville.

“The council need to be more proactive, there need to be more resources to deal with the issue,” he said.

“When those involved are caught they need to be brought before the courts and made an example of.

“If this doesn’t stop someone will be injured or worse.”

A PSNI spokesperson said police in Newtownabbey were appealing for information following a series of anti-social behaviour incidents in the Fernagh area in recent weeks.

“Up to fifty youths were fighting in the area between the hours of 9.30pm on April 25 and 12.30am on the morning of April 26,” the spokesperson said.

“These disturbances cause considerable distress to local residents.

“Police are investigating these incidents and community police have had a highly visible presence in the area and this will continue over the spring and summer months.

“This is an issue that cannot be addressed by police alone. Much more can be achieved if everyone in the community works together. Police recognise people within the area are working very hard to deal with these issues and that it is only a small minority of youths involved in incidents.”

Belfast Telegraph