A ring of steel is to be thrown round St Columb’s Park as efforts are ramped up to prevent the facility from becoming a den of anti-social activity.
The good weather has seen complaints soar from residents and park users concerned at the escalation in underage drinking, substance abuse and anti-social activity. Among the measures also being considered is a zero tolerance on alcohol consumption, alcohol confiscation, banning young people intent on drinking from entering the parkland, as well as increasing weekend patrols and police numbers in the area.
Setting out some of the detail that will be contained in a Notice of Motion he is bringing before the Derry City and Strabane District Council, DUP councillor, David Ramsey said the issues were necessary to prevent the park from becoming a no-go area.
“We have been raising this issue for almost two years. Every time the good weather has come the community wardens have come under serious pressure. The PSNI have limited resources and our community police officers find it very difficult to properly police the St Columb’s Park area.
“We are putting forward a Notice of Motion calling for a review of the security of our parks.
The biggest issue the community wardens are facing is whenever they arrive they are faced with 20, 30 and in some cases up to 100 young people with drink and drugs and involved in anti-social behaviour and partying. The wardens ask them to leave and they have been threatened.”
Asked what he saw as the way forward, Mr Ramsey said: “The only way, that this can be dealt with is by the police, because the wardens definitely do not have the resources. The PSNI in the Waterside have put in a bid for extra policing for the weekends.
“If this comes to fruition, what will happen is the securing of the area and that means large crowds will be prevented from gathering.
“Last week there was up to 300 at one stage who had gathered. The only way to deal with this is to treat the park like a stadium and prevent the problem from occurring, with all entrances secured to prevent alcohol being carried in.”
Asked if this would have a detrimental effect on other park users, Mr Ramsey said the only people who would be approached would be young people with alcohol.
Pressed on pursuing penalties against licenced premises selling alcohol to underage drinkers, Mr Ramsey said young people had a myriad of ways around legislation preventing the sale of alcohol to them.
“We need to make people aware that young people are getting alcohol illegally, even though off-licences do ask for identification. That is happening all the time,” he said.
“Without a doubt there needs to be a partnership approach to curbing alcohol sales to those underage and to curbing underage drinking.”
Calling for cross-party support for the Notice of Motion, Mr Ramsey said: “That will mean the police will be involved, local wardens will be involved and the park wardens and hopefully we can see the way forward from there.”