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Letter of the day: West Belfast has major anti-social problems and all bodies must unite to help find lasting solution

No quick fix

Anti-social behaviour in west Belfast has been dominating headlines and social media sites in recent months, with a particular focus on Dunville and Falls parks.

Young people have been gathering on street corners, at shop fronts and other public spaces for generations: it's nothing new. However, when it ends in assaults, criminal damage and attacks on cars and houses then it should quite rightly be condemned and solutions sought.

However, we need to be clear about what we identify as anti-social behaviour and make sure the answers we propose don't end up making the problem worse.

It is always more attractive to try and find a quick 'solution', rather than taking time to examine the causes. Are we in danger of doing that when it comes to young people's behaviour?

West Belfast has got big problems. Nearly half the population over 16 are in receipt of some form of benefits. We have Northern Ireland's second-highest levels of unemployment. Even then, 17% of locals who have jobs need to claim Employment and Support Allowances, because their jobs are dangerously lowly-paid.

More than one-fifth of west Belfast teenagers leave school with less than five high-grade GCSEs. More than 40% of children live in low-income families - the highest levels in Northern Ireland.

We have the third-highest crime levels and the third-highest incidents of anti-social behaviour. Can we really pretend that all these facts are not related?

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When we propose solutions to anti-social behaviour, we can't ignore the context and causes. This is not just a matter for the PSNI. We all have a role to play, but it must be a thoughtful and positive one.

Very often, the people who make the most noise about anti-social behaviour, demonise teenagers and point the finger at the police are the ones who make the least effort in ensuring better prospects for the young people involved.

JOANNE LOWRY

Workers Party, Springfield Road, Belfast

Belfast Telegraph

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