Gas units have been damaged in the latest in a series of anti-social episodes outside a Scouts Hall and adjoining premises in Derry.
Local scout leaders, Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly and residents have reported children as young as nine engaging in a wrecking spree in and around St. Mary’s Scouts Hall and neighbouring buildings in Creggan over recent months.
Drug paraphernalia has also been found outside the Cromore Gardens premises.
Speaking on behalf of the scout leaders at the club, Scout Leader Charlie McChrystal said the situation has escalated over the past seven months, with gangs of children aged between nine and 15 gathering at the centre at night-time.
“This core group are not from Cromore but they congregate outside the hall,” he said. “The Housing Executive has just done up the building and put new fencing up round the side of it but these young people actually broke down a metal fence and bent the bars. We have found drug paraphernalia around the back of the building and they painted their names on the windows at the front.”
There have also been reports that the damaged gas equipment had previously been misused for drug drops.
Youths ransacked an adjoining building after busting the gates open and were now climbing up on pipes to get onto the veranda of the club. The Scout Club is now asking the H.E. to extend fencing to prevent the youths accessing the site.
Mr McChrystal said: “I would ask parents to keep an eye on where their children are at night.
“The people of Cromore are great people and they have supported us. We know this is not the people of Cromore. These young people are coming in and giving the area a bad name.”
The Scouts Club itself has around 50 young members. “We try our best for them and we have a great bunch of wains,” Mr McChrystal said.
“We are looking for help now to resolve the problems.”
Colr. Donnelly has said a site visit will take place with the Housing Executive this week to try and get the gas boxes secured.
Colr. Donnelly has been in contact with Firmus Energy and the Housing Executive following the vandalism.
He claimed that the youths behind the vandalism were plaguing the area and engaging in anti-social behaviour, drinking drug taking.
“I am concerned that it could get worse over the summer holidays and I would call on parents to ensure they know where their children are, and make sure they are not engaging in such activities, which are not only detrimental to their community but their own safety and well being,” said Colr. Donnelly.
“I would also call on the Housing Executive to secure the vandalised gas boxes as a matter of urgency and look again at security measures surrounding this building to ensure safety of those using them and surrounding residents.”
One local resident said: “None of these young people are from the area. They gather in the street here and it seems to be organised by mobile phones. It’s intimidating, you’d be afraid to speak going past and on at least a couple of occassions there has been drink involved.
“Coming into the end of June now and the holidays, you don’t want this to be happening outside your homes every night of the week.”