Wrecking spree escalation as Derry youth facilities targeted
A local youth and community centre has been ransacked with reinforced windows and metal grills smashed through, the culprits causing widespread damage.
Staff at Ballymagroarty Community Centre were yesterday cleaning up the mess left by those behind the latest episode of anti-social behaviour to hit the area.
In other incidents over the past few days, a stolen black Pathfinder vehicle was also torched and abandoned nearby yesterday morning, while a petrol bomb was thrown at a car the night before. Last Thursday, meanwhile, the local Gaelscoil was also broken into.
In the latest episode of anti-social behaviour, entertainment equipment, including a recently purchased sound bar for showing films to local children, were among the items stolen.
It is understood blood was found at the scene and police are investigating. One youth was spotted at the centre yesterday, but it is not known if he was alone at that stage.
A PSNI spokesman said: “At about 8.30 a.m., police received a report that a youth was seen trying to break into the community centre at Ballymagroarty. He ran off when local people called out to him.
“Entry was gained through a kitchen window and a number of items were stolen. Damage was also caused to cupboards. The stolen items included an XBox, Playstation and Panasonic Sound Bar.”
Youth leader, John Leonard said: “This is a vital facility for the young people in this area and here you have people stealing X Boxes and Playstations and a Sound Bar from an area that has very little funding or resources as it is.”
He said efforts were ongoing to try and ensure a Charity Bingo night due to be held at the community centre tonight would be able to take place.
Ballymagroarty & Hazelbank Community Partnership Regeneration Officer, Billy Page, meanwhile, said: “These were security windows that were smashed and it took quite a bit of force to do this. They beat the back window in.
“There are very, very few facilities in this area and what they have done is knocked the community back another bit but this community will always get up and fight for the facilities that are so badly needed here.”
Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney said there was a lot of anger in the local community on hearing about “this latest wrecking spree.” He said: “It’s terrible that people would target a community centre and a school teaching the Irish language. The small number of people who carry out these acts of wanton vandalism and criminal damage have nothing to offer the people of Ballymagroarty.”
A PSNI spokesman yesterday appealed for information.
He added: “On Sunday afternoon, damage to Gaelscoil Na Daroige at Sheelin Park was reported to police. The damage to doors and windows was caused on Saturday.
“At 5am on Monday, February 29th, fire-fighters turned out to a car on fire at Ringfort Road. The interior was badly damaged. The Nissan Pathfinder car had been stolen from the Eglinton area. A number of other cars and domestic garages were entered and searched in Eglinton on Sunday night.”