The problem of clearing up the physical wreckage left by joyriders in Derry communities was discussed by members of Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Environment & Regeneration Committee on Wednesday.
Sinn Féin Councillor Kevin Campbell complained it was, on occasion, taking up to ten days for cars to be lifted from Derry estates once joyriders had exhausted their use.
Colr. Campbell raised the matter during chairperson’s business at the meeting in a week in which, in Shipquay Street, Strand Road and, most notably, Galliagh, there were several reported instances of serious car crime.
Sinn Fein Colr. Kevin Campbell has said he had serious concerns about the time it was taking to remove cars from the streets of Derry.
He complained it was both an “eyesore” and a “health and safety issue” because children often used the burned out wrecks as playgrounds.
The councillor for the Moor District Electoral Area (DEA) also said there was a particular problem with cars that are uninsured and untaxed and left in various areas as “runarounds.”
Because these vehicles are technically still roadworthy DC&SDC cannot order their immediate removal and must instead serve a seven day abandonment order on the car to allow an owner to collect it if they so wish.
This, said Colr. Campbell, meant it was taking up to 10 days for cars to be lifted.
He complained that the Council formerly had a “perfect system” whereby a local company was contacted about any abandoned vehicles.
Colr. Campbell said that under this arrangement cars were lifted within 24 hours “nine times out of ten.”
However, since contracting a Belfast-based firm to conduct the work it was taking longer for cars to be collected, Colr. Campbell told the committee.
SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney echoed Colr. Campbell’s sentiments and pointed to the example of local community organisations being employed to help remove unwanted bonfire materials in Galliagh during recent summers. Colr. Tierney said local knowledge went “miles beyond what an outside contractor could do”.
The Council’s Head of Environment Conor Canning explained the Council was statutorily bound to serve seven day abandonment orders on vehicles that were not obviously wrecks.
And, in respect of councillors’ complaints over the length of time it was taking for cars to be removed, he said the Council had a service level agreement with a Belfast-based company to have all cars removed within 24 hours and it would be insisting that this level of service was met.
The intervention was timely in a week in which Galliagh was plagued by joyriders who sped dangerously around the estate before torching it near shops on the Fairview Road in the early hours of Tuesday.
The culprits were branded ‘eejits’ by the PSNI who said their choice of a shop decorated with an anti-joyriding mural for their anti-social criminality was ‘ironic’.
“The irony is not lost on Ballyarnett Neighbourhood Team that this car was crashed and burnt out next to a mural done by local young people expressing a hope for a future without these exact incidents,” the force said.
Chief Inspector Alan Hutton, meanwhile, was scathing of those responsible for driving recklessly in the Strand Road, Shipquay Street, Galliagh Park, Glendale Park and Knockalla Park.
“This type of anti-social driving is nothing but a blight on the community and the people who engage in this have nothing to offer and have little or no thought for the local community, or for the consequences of their actions, which are reckless in the extreme,” he said.
Later on Tuesday there were further recriminations when a motorist crashed into a police car and wall while fleeing police in the greater Shantallow area.
The incident occurred as members of the PSNI’s Ballyarnett Neighbourhood Team were calling to a new shop that has just opened off the Skeoge Road.
“As we entered we saw the Silver Jaguar and recognised the driver immediately,” the PSNI said.
“We tried to stop him but he set off at speed for the car park exit. He couldn’t get past us so he flew on to the pavement and smashed into the wall and front corner of our car in order to get away.”