Angry William Street residents will not be kept hostages in their own homes by anti-social motorists who, they say, have been using the area as a rallying point.
Following another late night of screeching tyres, artificially amplified exhaust pipes, and over-revved engines, several neighbours of William Street, Rossville Street and Brewster’s Close contacted the ‘Journal’ to insist enough was enough.
The matter came to a head on Monday when five local women convened an emergency meeting, incensed that over a dozen cars and their occupants had spent Sunday evening and the early hours of Monday either idling in, or cruising around, the William Street Car Park as residents tried unsuccessfully to get some sleep.
“Before I went to bed I thought I heard cars so I opened the blinds and, I thought, immediately, oh no, not again. They they were flashing the lights across at the windows,” said one of the women, who suffers from cancer and spoke to the ‘Journal’ on condition of anonymity.
Another, who also suffers from ill health, said: “I have five young children ranging from age six to 13. Sunday night nailed it for me. I came down here [to her neighbour’s home] and said, ‘I need to move’. My children are like zombies. I can’t continue without any sleep.”
The women insisted the noise and light pollution, not to mention the air pollution emanating from so many pointlessly idling cars, was having a detrimental effect on their health, as well as on their children’s and grandchildren’s education.
“You’re talking about parents that have to get up with children who are very young. At night they can’t get to sleep and have to get up for school,” blasted one of the women.
“Children are exhausted. They’re having to take time off because they are too tired and when they are in school they can’t focus on their work,” she added.
It’s not a recent phenomenon. The the nightly congregation has been a draining and sometimes frightening experience for some time. One of the women recounted a particularly ugly incident during the summer.
“My 11-years-old son was going to the shop to get milk at about half eight in the evening. Because he walked through the car park and past one of the cars one of the drivers drove over his skateboard snapping it in two. When I went over and asked why he had done this he said, ‘f**k off you slut. Go back into your house’.
“My wee boy was crying saying, ‘Mammy come on in, come on in’. This is the abuse you are left listening to if you go out and challenge them.”
The women did not want their identities published because they were fearful of reprisals over speaking out.
“I’d be terrified they’d come over to the house,” said one.
“If you say anything or pull your front blinds they put the full beam on. You can’t even sit in the living room,” declared another.
The woman said they contacted the PSNI about the problem and were told the force would look at extra patrols. But they want the car park closed off at night. If something is not done they will stage a picket. Enough is enough, was their message.
“People are getting persecuted. Pensioners and children. We are seriously considering getting a group of people to mount a picket on a Friday and Saturday, barricading it up ourselves and saying, ‘You know what? You are not getting in. Move on’. If nothing happens this is what’s going to take place.”
Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly, said: “It’s just not acceptable. It’s the Council’s property. They need to step up to the mark. This can’t be ignored. It’s affecting people’s health, their well-being, it’s affecting their mental health and children’s education.
“Some of these residents have said they’ll block the car park if it’s not addressed.They have said that the Council needs to do something here and if they don’t they’ll do it themselves and I’ll stand with them.”
A spokesperson for Derry City & Strabane District Council confirmed that it was aware of the issue of anti-social behaviour in the car park area.
“Council is considering a number of options, reviewing the learning from elsewhere and working directly with agencies , including the PSNI, PCSP and City Centre Initiative, to address this issue.”