Residents living near a once grand, but now vacant, house in Derry are “living on their nerves” following successive weeks of up to 40 youths gathering to drink and take drugs there, a local councillor has claimed.
Independent Derry City & Strabane District Councillor, Darren O’Reilly, said efforts had been taken to try to secure the house on Park Avenue, in the Rosemount area, including windows being boarded-up and gates padlocked, but that the youths were still gaining entry.
Local residents have reported that the house, believed to be in an unsafe state, is being used as a drinking and drugs-taking den, while last weekend, it was alleged teenagers emerged from the site covered in blood and had to be given medical assistance.
Colr. O’Reilly said the problems in and around the property stretch back two years, but have intensified in recent weeks.
He said: “Young people are leaving the house in a pretty bad shape, some residents have claimed.
“The danger is, young people are taking substances in a building which is in a very poor state of repair, so it’s a pretty dangerous situation.
“Young people have been hanging around the immediate area which has fashioned an awful lot of inter-agency work in attempting to secure the property.
“Boards have gone up. Different agencies have been working through different realms of trying to secure the building and make sure it is inaccessible but, unfortunately, over recent weeks we have had a noted increase in young people gaining entry to the property and then the dangerous risks they are taking after that.
“Over the last couple of weekends we have had reports from residents and local people that there were 30 to 40 young people inside the building.
“Last weekend, there appears to have been a serious altercation where some young people needed medical assistance.
“This is simply not acceptable to the local residents.”
Colr. Reilly also pointed to empty alcohol bottles and debris littering the entrance to the property at present.
He said that efforts were now being made to get in touch with those with responsibility for the property so they can “engage with myself, different agencies and local residents to give assurances this will be resolved.
“It’s alarming when people are gaining access to the property which is clearly in a state of disrepair. It’s not safe,” he maintained.
“It will, hopefully, come to a point where young people can’t access that house or grounds and get involved in a behaviour which will risk their health.
“At the moment residents are frustrated. They thought there was a resolution when the wooden boards had been placed on windows but, obviouslym that was a short term fix and now they are looking for a more long-term solution. Steel shuttering may have to be used to stop people gaining access.
“Over the last couple of weeks people have been living on their nerves and are fearful of what’s going on in side the house.
“Some of the young people needed medical attention at the weekend and I think a lot of people were shocked at the intensity of some of the injuries.”
“Reports suggest that some of young people gathering at the property are aged from around 13 to 16 years-old.
Colr. Reilly said that as such, parents and guardians of young people needed to make sure their children weren’t getting mixed up in the problems.
“Parents have a part to play in this, it’s important that they know where their children are,” he said.
“When people are leaving their kids off at Rosemount they need to aware that this is maybe one of the places they could be going and I think it’s important for parents to talk to their children about where they are going and what they are at.
He said there could also be child protection issues if vulnerable young people are involved.
He added: “Residents are fearful of the Christmas periodwhere young people will be off school and at Christmas time there is more alcohol consumed generally. It is a quiet time for families and they don’t want to be plagued by the anti-social goings on that are happening around the area.”
A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council said it is “aware of the issues relating to this property and is working in partnership with a number of agencies in relation to locating the owner of the property so that the property can be secured.”