A Derry councillor has called for a drink ban by-law crackdown amid warnings that hordes of drunken teenagers are “destroying” St Columb’s Park.
Waterside DUP Councillor David Ramsey said the enforcement of the city-wide ban on drinking in public spaces - first introduced in the city eight years ago - now needed to be ramped up.
His comments come as the PSNI in Derry expressed anger that some parents had been seen dropping their children off as officers tried to deal with around 300 “drunk teens” in St. Columb’s Park on Friday.
Over 100 bottles of alcohol were seized at the scene.
Derry & Strabane Council, which owns and maintains the park, said yesterday they were working closely with the PSNI to address the problems.
Colr. Ramsey, meanwhile, said that at a recent multi-agency meeting he convened alongside Mayor, Hilary McClintock, it was agreed that CCTV cameras will now be installed along the running track at the park to give police forewarning of crowds gathering and trouble brewing.
The move follows after glass had been smashed along the race track recently.
“The park is a brilliant recreational facility but it is being destroyed,” Colr. Ramsey claimed. “Even the wardens have been attacked in the past.
“All it takes is a couple of bad eggs and then it escalates. Park users are avoiding the park in good weather which is shocking. It seems the only answer is to enforce the no drinking by-law.”
The PSNI took to Facebook at the weekend to express their ire at the situation, with one officer writing on Saturday: “Ballyarnett Neighbourhood Team spent all afternoon and evening yesterday in St. Columb’s Park with up to 300 drunk teens. What made me absolutely irate were the amount of parents driving up and dropping their underage kids off! Words fail me. The place was not safe for teens.”
The officer added that it was “impossible” for police to tackle the problem alone.
Waterside Sinn Fein Councillor Christopher Jackson said tha this was “a problem that affects all areas of our city once the good weather comes out”.
“Parents and all the various agencies have a role to play in tackling the issue of underage drinking,” he said.
“I have spoken to large groups of young people caught up in similar situations and the vast majority weren’t drinking. They have told me they are too old for youth clubs but too young for local bars and it’s an issue faced by every village, town and city across Ireland that we still haven’t found the magic answer to resolve.
“I think in the age we live in, it’s vitally important that we once again reinforce the message is that key responsibility lays with parents.”
A spokesperson for Derry City & Strabane District Council said that it takes all necessary steps “to ensure that St. Columb’s Park is a safe environment for families and people to frequent and enjoy. Security is reviewed on an ongoing and regular basis in close partnership with the PSNI, Community Safety Wardens and other stakeholders to ensure the park remains a safe area for the public,” she said.
“We would urge the public to respect that St Columb’s Park is a shared community space frequented by families and young children, and to report any incidents directly to the PSNI, and our park rangers by contacting Council’s Park Manager Team on 02871 253253.”