A local councillor has warned against “rewarding” boy racers who, he says, are causing a public nuisance in the Strand Road area of the city.
Sinn Fein’s Mickey Cooper spoke out after local residents expressed concern about a proposed PSNI initiative to engage with car enthusiasts in a bid to curb the problem.
In recent times, the ‘Journal’ has reported that residents living in the vicinity of the Smyths’ toy store have been plagued by noise, litter and sleepless nights as a result of anti-social behaviour by car drivers using the parking area.
Mickey Cooper says he has heard suggestions that the proposed new police initiative could involve PSNI officers “handing out pizza” to “boy racers” and holding a raffle in which car enthusiasts could win tickets for go-karting events.
He added: “I have contacted the PSNI and raised the residents’ concerns that such a move would be seen as a reward to the boy racers who are causing problems.
“They have taken these concerns on board and have agreed to scale back the event so that, while the racers are engaged by the PSNI, they are similarity not being given material incentives to stop their behaviour.
“I am also in talks with others to seek a longer term solution to this issue and would also encourage residents who have any evidence of criminality among the boy racers to either contact the police or myself with the information.
“This will allow proper enforcement and also remove the stigma from those drivers who are not causing problems.”
Colr. Cooper added: “Earlier this year, I raised residents’ concerns that the introduction of a barrier at the former Budget DIY car park on the Strand Road at night-time to prevent vehicles entering the site had simply moved the problem a couple of hundred yards up the road and is now impacting on the lives of local residents living near the car park at Smyths.
“Since then, we have held meetings with residents and the PSNI to try to resolve these issues. We have called for a twin track approach of enforcement and education around these issues.
“This has been based on the fact that, while some of those gathering earlier in the evenings may be open to reducing their activities through education, it is clear that enforcement is key to dealing with the hardcore - including those who gather later at night with no concerns about the impact their behaviour has on local residents.”
Just last week, local SDLP councillor Shauna Cusack voiced her support for the proposed PSNI engagement event planned for September 13.
PSNI Constable Steve Laverty, who is helping plan next month’s event, said: “Hopefully, as we build confidence and relationships within the car enthusiast fraternity, we can subsequently attempt to influence their behaviour in a positive way.”