A Derry woman has spoken of her horror at having to cover her two-year-old’s bedroom window with a quilt to protect him because of anti-social gangs smashing windows and tormenting residents in the area.
Sabrina Cairns said the dream home she waited so long for has become a living nightmare for her and little son Jake.
The 22-year-old moved into the house on Old School Lane in September and was delighted to have been allocated a house in the street where she grew up and where her parents still live.
However, after refurbishing the entire house, she is now considering moving for good because she can no longer cope with the gangs gathering to the rear of the property along a laneway leading to a notorious under pass tunnel at Madam’s Bank Road.
The tunnel has become a hotbed of anti-social behaviour over recent years.
Ms Cairns said she returned from a visit to Accident & Emergency with her son recently to find broken slates off her porch roof, and scissors, bricks and glass bottles lying in her garden.
“It’s just got worse since then with the breaking of the windows,” she said, adding that in one episode her son had just moved from the window two seconds before it was hit.
She said: “On Friday night last they broke one of the windows in the sitting room. That was about 6pm. I was in the living room. Jake was just standing at the window two seconds beforehand and he went to the sofa to eat his dinner. Luckily it didn’t come through.
“It scared him and scared me too. I was too afraid to stay here since Friday night.”
Other window panes in the same room were found smashed when Sabrina returned to the house this week.
Prior to this, there were other episodes including youths gathered at the elevated lane way would often make taunts in the window while Sabrina was doing the dishes in the kitchen.
“I want something to be done because I can’t live like this. I want something done for all of us here.”
Her mother Sandra added that efforts to try to get gates to block off the laneway may not work because there’s gaps in the fencing and the gangs were also throwing debris from the main Madams Bank Road.
She said Sabrina “feels she’s hitting a brick wall” and was having chest pains “because of the stress of it and she does have a murmur”.
“It’s terrible she has to put a quilt up on her window to stop her wee boy or herself getting hurt,” Mrs Cairns said, adding that police had been very helpful and provided lots of advice about the issues.
Sabrina’s sister Nathalie meanwhile said: “It’s not just affecting Sabrina. Jake’s looking at his mammy in tears crying and having chest pains, it’s going to affect him as well.”
A spokesman for Habinteg Housing Association said efforts were ongoing to tackle the problems.
He said: “We sympathise fully with households who have been subjected to antisocial behaviour in this area. Since October 2014 we have been spearheading a multi-agency response to these incidents, working closely with local public representatives, PSNI, Transport NI/Road Service, colleagues from Apex and our own residents at Old School Lane who have been fully involved in the campaign.
“To date we have secured a commitment from Road Service to repair street lighting, given official notice of the plans to Alleygate the underpass in liaison with Derry City Council, had ‘Off The Streets’ representatives engaging with local youths, a regular presence / rapid response from Community Police Teams and Community Safety Wardens and night patrols from Shantallow Residents’ Group.
“We will continue to work closely with all agencies and local residents to combat antisocial behaviour.”
SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney said there was now “a huge effort” under way to combat anti-social behaviour.
“I assure residents that the hard work will continue,” Colr. Tierney said.