A resident of Derry’s Glen Road has hit out against the PSNI and Derry City and Strabane District Council over what he says is a consistent failure to deal with ongoing anti-social behaviour on public land in the area.
The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, also says he fears that recent gatherings of upwards of 200 youths engaging in drinking at Creggan Burn Park may result in either a violent or sexual assault.
The resident is also scathing of the standard of response from both the police and Council to the issues which he says have been blighting the area for several years.
The man said: “Basically, the story at Creggan Burn Park is that it is going ungoverned by any of the authorities who are responsible. I feel the police are either choosing to ignore this or decide to patrol the area when it’s raining.”
The resident added that the issues continue to arise each time there is the prospect of hot weather and added that after he witnessed a crowd gathering last Thursday night (June 27) he reported the matter to the PSNI.
“I witnessed five police officers walking down the zigzag path to the young ones. Not one of them took out a notebook to record any details and no alcohol was taken from them and they left after about twenty minutes.
“Friday night came around and approximately 200 young ones arrived. There wasn’t much trouble, but they wrecked the area.
“In fact, some of them felt so comfortable that they wouldn’t be challenged that they pitched tents in plain sight of the road and stayed overnight. I called the Community Safety Wardens who said they had called the police, but that the police did nothing, and the same issues were happening elsewhere in the town
“I also feel that the police don’t feel it’s important to adopt a zero-tolerance attitude. The wardens do their best and always take your calls. And, the local councillor’s also do their best, but ultimately the police are the ones that need to enforce it, but they don’t. It’s as black and white as that.
“There are also times when scrambler bikes are being used on the paths and the green areas of the park. In fact, one guy drives a van loaded with scramblers into the area so that kids can basically use the area as a race track.
“Over Easter I rang the police non-emergency number 101 every day to make a complaint. Not once did the police come out. On one occasion I rang the wrong number and somehow got through to CID. The woman I spoke to was so concerned about the trouble we were having she got a police officer to call us.
“He was a nice guy but just ask me to email about the trouble. He basically told me that calling 101 is a waste of time. So, who are we supposed to call?”
The Glen Road resident added that everyone in the district agreed to the design plans that created a series of paths in Creggan Burn Park that the police, Park Rangers and Community safety Wardens could drive on and therefore carry out regular checks.
The local resident continued: “Brooke Park is less than a mile away and has a ranger working there all day. Why can’t they drive across here and check Creggan Burn Park?
“The Council has a big part to play, but I think they’ve buried their heads in the sand over this.
“And, I have only seen the police drive on the path once and was after a ‘glorious’ advertisement to say that they would be attending in force regularly after similar bouts of anti-social behaviour. But, this was once and once only. And, they told everyone they were coming and brought the local press.
“Last Friday night, I witnessed two police officers stand by and watch young boys walk past them with alcohol.
“The officers were making enquiries at the street leading to the top of the zigzag path in Rosemount, but surely they could have stopped these lads, or did they not hear the commotion further down the field?”
Whilst steel security gates have been in place throughout the wider Lowrys Lane area for some time now, the man who spoke to the Derry News says the one closest to the affected area in Creggan Burn Park is currently useless in stopping young people accessing the area.
“The zigzagged path has a gate that Council pays for to be locked at weekends and they say that is a preventative measure. But, the security gate has a wooden fence beside it which is broken and that means young people just walk around it. What a waste of resources.
“Also, the trees on this path are just serving one purpose and that’s to shelter these young ones and provide a toilet for them. Why haven’t they been cut down? Last year they cut the trees down in the wrong location-a part of the park where there was no bother.
“The only time I’ve seen the young ones worried was when one of the parents came looking for their child-not when the police came around.
“I appreciate that the city has bigger problems, but this is just about to become an area where you can young ones can gather without any fear of being tackled about misbehaving.
“It’s only a matter of time before a young one is violently or sexually assaulted in that field, because they are not just involved in drinking. Some of them are in a terrible state and end up lying face down.”
“The numbers keep getting bigger and bigger each time the sun comes out and it appears that no one will take responsibility for it,” he said.
SDLP representative Shauna Cusack said: “This resident is 100 per cent correct in what he’s saying.
“I’ve repeatedly reported all of the issues affecting this area to the relevant Council departments and I have also consistently told them that you could set your clock to the times when these problems are going to arise.
“It’s not rocket science to realise that when schools are closed and good weather comes along that this is going to happen. But, too many heads are being buried in the sand on issues like these.
“A couple of years ago, I had a motion passed asking that all council owned parks and greenways were given equal attention and I have reminded council officers of this time and again, but it appears that it’s falling on deaf ears.
“Around two weeks ago, I convened a formal meeting with the senior Council officers about Creggan Burn Park and all of the safety issues there and it was agreed that they’d examine further ways to increase safety-especially with regard to being able to fence it off.
“Ultimately, the PSNI also need to be more proactive and responsive as this could well result in a tragedy if it’s not curtailed.
“Parents also need first and foremost to know where their children are and what they are doing. Also, those people seen dropping their kids off in the area need to realise what they’re doing is irresponsible. It’s not only putting children at risk but they are helping to torment a community.”
And, Sinn Fein Councillor for the area, Michael Cooper told the Derry News that he had received numerous reports of gatherings at Creggan Burn Park on Friday night (June 28).
“I spoke at length with the PSNI on Saturday (June 29) to make sure that there was no repeat of the incidences. And, I have also spoken with the Community Safety Wardens who are investigating the broken fence in the area which was being used as a rat run by some of the young people and I am expecting to see progress on the repair of the fence this coming week.
“However, I have made the point to the police and other stakeholders that the area needs to be continually monitored over the summer period.”
In response to questions from the Derry News, Sergeant Cathal Pearce said: “On the evening of 27 and 28 June, police spoke to a number of youths (approximately 30/40) in the Creggan Burn area of Derry.
On speaking with them there were no offences disclosed, nor was there any sign of alcohol noted. We also liaised with local representatives and a member of the public at the time.
“Whilst a group of young people congregating in a specific area does not necessarily mean there is anything anti-social taking place I understand their presence may seem intimidating to local residents. However, I would ask young people to please be aware of their surroundings and the impact their presence may have on local residents.
“We will take a strong and proactive stance against anti-social behaviour and alcohol and underage drinking.
“Not only is drinking under the age of 18 illegal, but alcohol can also affect the ability to make good choices. They could end up doing things they would never consider doing sober, like getting involved in anti-social behaviour, public disorder or other criminality, which can result in a criminal record, that can have an impact on getting into university or the ability to travel to other countries.
“I would like to reassure the local community that we will deal with any offending behaviour in a robust manner.
“We are always here to listen to community concerns and are aware of the effects this type of behaviour can. The support of local people, community and voluntary representatives, and particularly the parents of those youths frequenting the area, are essential ingredients to help improve the quality of life for the local residents.
“We will continue to work in partnership with our local council and elected representatives as well as community reps and Community Safety Wardens to address the concerns of the local community.
“I am also aware that a number of calls had been received in the past months in relation to the use of scramblers in the area. Enquiries are ongoing.
“Anyone with any concerns regarding anti-social behaviour should contact police on 101.”
And, a spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council said that they are aware of ongoing problems with anti-social behaviour in the area and measures have been put in place to address some of the concerns.
The spokesperson added: “These include introducing security gates at the park and stepping up weekend patrols by Community Safety Wardens over the summer months. This type of behaviour is primarily an issue for the PSNI and we would encourage anyone with concerns to get in contact with them directly. Council and its community partners will however continue to work with the PSNI in monitoring and finding longer terms solutions to the problem.
“We would also like to ask parents to be aware of where their children are socialising during the next few months when the schools are off, and reinforce the message that parks are shared community spaces for everyone to enjoy.”
CAPTION: Anti-social behaviour at Creggan Burn Park has been ongoing for some time to the annoyance of residents in the area.
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