Anti-social behaviour in Saintfield to top meeting

Anti-social behaviour in Saintfield to top meeting

10 July 2019

INCREASING trouble in Saintfield will top the agenda at a public meeting in the town next week.

Residents are being invited to attend the event at the new Saintfield community centre at the Belfast Road in the wake of unruly behaviour at various locations across the town over recent weeks.

There have been worrying reports of trouble at the Downpatrick Street car park, the Demesne sports pitches, Fair Green, Main Street, Comber Street, New Line and Old Mill areas.

Windows in a number of homes have been smashed by stone-throwing youths while a number of picturesque flowerbeds have been damaged. 

Sharp pieces of broken glass were scattered across the town’s cricket and hockey pitches, while a number of derelict properties were broken into.

Next Wednesday evening’s meeting — which takes place in the new Belfast Road community centre at 7pm — is being organised by Rowallane councillor Patrick Brown and Saintfield Development Association.

Cllr Brown said the meeting has been organised as a direct response to escalating trouble in Saintfield over recent weeks and hopes residents will attend to air their views.

Representatives from a number of statutory agencies have been invited to attend to discuss what services or support mechanisms are in place to help tackle the increasing trouble.

Cllr Brown said the meeting was open to everyone and he encouraged residents who have been affected by the recent trouble to attend.

“I am keen to see people from the Comber Street, New Line and Old Mill areas which have been most affected by anti-social behaviour recently,” he said. “The more people that attend, the better our chances of sorting this problem out before it gets any worse. 

“I am working alongside the Saintfield Development Association to organise next week’s meeting given the increasing concerned at the increase in anti-social behaviour in various parts of the town.”

A spokesperson for the development association said increased trouble may be not only due to a lack of amenities to keep the young people engaged, but also the “noticeable lack of a police presence”, especially in the evenings.

“Young people are gathering in various areas, including the Downpatrick Street car park, the parking area at the Fair Green and around the sports club, leaving good amounts of litter to mark their presence,” said the spokesperson.

“Over past months however this has taken a more serious turn. There have been instances of vandalism to flower beds and planters, while commercial and residential properties have had their windows smashed by rocks on Main Street and Comber Street. Derelict properties have also been broken into.”

News of next week’s public meeting comes after another Rowallane councillor, Robert Burgess, recently highlighted what he described as the “worrying increase” in town centre trouble.

He said young people congregating at The Demesne sports pitches were drinking alcohol, explaining that before cricket matches could be played, Saintfield club officials had to remove the shards of glass which posed a major danger to players.

Cllr Burgess raised his concerns with local police and revealed that he is also keen to enlist the help and support of officials from the Education Authority’s Youth Services department.

He said that while “having nothing to do” was no excuse for trouble, he hoped that providing activities for young people could help, pointing to the success of a similar scheme introduced in Killyleagh to combat anti-social behaviour several years ago.