Fear of long, hot summer in park

St Columb's Park
St Columb's Park

Crowds of drunken, pyromanic youths intimidated users of St Columb’s Park during the recent spell of good weather, prompting calls for co-ordinated action, to prevent a long, hot summer of anti-social behaviour.

Foyle DUP MLA Gary Middleton voiced his anger.

“Over recent days I have had a large number of complaints about anti social behaviour in St Columb’s Park.

“I was made aware that there have been large groups of people gathering at the lower end of the park where they have been consuming alcohol, starting fires on the ground and causing disturbance for other park users,” said Mr Middleton.

“As we approach the summer months, St Columb’s Park should be a place where families and individuals can feel safe and where they can enjoy the surroundings.

“I have been in contact with the PSNI over the weekend during the disturbance. The PSNI have assured me that they are taking the issue seriously and will be working with the council and community groups to tackle the issue,” he added.

Inspector Jonathan Hunter said: “Police are aware that this type of anti-social behaviour can cause nuisance and annoyance to members of the public, and we treat all reports of this nature seriously.

“We often work closely with colleagues such as local councils and community groups to tackle anti-social behaviour in a co-ordinated way and in the coming days we will be focusing our patrols to combat this type of behaviour while providing reassurance to the wider community.

“We would ask members of the community to continue to report any concerns so police can respond and prevent further nuisance.

“Police are aware that in many instances, alcohol is a major factor in many incidents of anti-social behaviour. With that in mind, we would ask parents to talk to their young people about the consequences of underage drinking.

“Underage drinking may seem like harmless fun but someone may become a little more vulnerable and things can spiral out of control quickly. We do not want to spoil anyone’s fun but the fact is that it is illegal to consume alcohol when you are under the age of 18 and police have the power to seize your alcohol.

“There is also the potential for young people to become the victims of crime if they have been drinking and are not able to look after themselves.

“For those over 18 drinking alcohol in designated public areas, police can forward your details to the local Council for consideration of prosecution under local civic bye-laws.”

A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council said that Council was aware of issues relating to anti-social behaviour and littering.

“The park has seen a substantial increase in visitor numbers due to the good weather with groups of teenagers gathering in the area in the evenings.

“We would urge anyone with concerns over anti-social behaviour at the park to please contact the PSNI directly. We have also been liaising with the Community Wardens with a view to stepping up their presence in the area over the coming days and our park wardens will continue to monitor the situation.

“We would like to remind people that St Columb’s Park is an important shared space used regularly by children and every effort is made to ensure it remains a safe and family friendly space.

“Council welcomes feedback from park users, and anyone with any concerns relating to the park is asked to report these directly to Council’s Park Management Team on 71 253253.”