Police step up patrols as residents spat at

Sinn Fein Councillor Christopher Jackson has raised concerns over the police response.
Sinn Fein Councillor Christopher Jackson has raised concerns over the police response.

The PSNI have vowed to step up its response to anti-social behaviour after residents were spat and abused at while trying to disperse gangs of up to 200 youths in Gobnascale.

PSNI Chief Inspector Alan Hutton said they were taking steps to deal with the problems in the area, in response to concerns raised by Sinn Fein Councillor for the area Christopher Jackson.

Speaking about the problems, Colr. Jackson said: “For over five weeks now we have seen crowds of upwards of 200 young people congregate next to the grounds of Immaculate Conception College. The vast majority of those are coming from other parts of the city, although some gathering in the area may simply be meeting up with friends.

“It is apparent that many of those are involved in criminality, underage drinking and can’t see the impact that they are having on the residents living nearby.”

Colr. Jackson called on parents across the city to make sure they are informed about where their children are going at night, particularly at weekends.

“I am confident that the vast majority of these parents have no idea what their children are doing,” he said, adding: “Myself and community workers have had numerous meetings with the PSNI to highlight this issue. It is frustrating that despite commitments to have a presence in the area , sadly the reality is that this isn’t happening.

“Residents in the area expect a response from the PSNI when they feel intimidated in their homes, and in my opinion the response to date has been totally unacceptable.

“Community workers and residents have been left to fill the vacuum left by the PSNI and on occasions have been verbally abused and spat on when attempting to move the large crowds along.

“This has to stop and the PSNI have to step up to the mark to address the problem.”

He added: “It is encouraging that young people from all parts of the city want to meet up and socialise with each other, but this needs to be in a safe environment, with the relevant supervision. I have serious concerns about the dangers these young people may be exposed to and I dread to think what could happen if this continues.”

Chief Inspector Hutton has responded: “Police are aware of recent anti-social behaviour involving large numbers of youths in the Top of the Hill area of Waterside and are taking steps to address the issue.

“Officers attended a meeting with local community and political representatives on Tuesday, where the concerns of those attending were taken on board, and assurances have been given that greater resources will be dedicated to the area in the form of increased patrolling and a more visible police presence.”

Chf. Insp. Hutton also called on parents to make sure their children are not involved in the trouble.

He said: “I would also like to stress to parents the importance of knowing where their children are and what they are doing. Parents should warn their children about the dangers of being influenced by others and that decisions their children make now will influence the choices and opportunities available to them later on in their lives.”