Young drinkers responsible for most disorderly incidents

Young drinkers responsible for most disorderly incidents

31 March 2021

YOUNG people drinking and being disorderly accounted for the overwhelming majority of the 64 incidents Newry, Mourne and Down Council community safety wardens responded to in the Downpatrick and Newcastle areas during the first three months of the year, it has been revealed.

The figures were confirmed at last night’s meeting of the district’s Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) and relate to a period between January and March 17.

District-wide, wardens responded to 1,1224 incidents over this period which in addition to Downpatrick and Newcastle, included Newry, Warrenpoint and Rostrevor.

There have also been reports of increased anti-social behaviour in the Castlewellan, Dundrum and Ballynahinch areas.

Wardens attended 36 incidents in Downpatrick — which witnessed a recent upsurge in anti-social behaviour — with three of the incidents reported to police. In total, wardens were on patrol in Downpatrick for 216 hours during the first 12 weeks of 2021.

In Newcastle, wardens attended 28 incidents, three of which were also reported to police, spending 252 hours on patrol in the resort.

The Grove area in Downpatrick has been an anti-social behaviour hot spot for several months and an example of some of the incidents which wardens have attended in this area were outlined at  last night’s meeting.

On several occasions in January, wardens dispersed a group of teenagers at the Grove area playing loud music, while they also witnessed teenagers drinking at the St Patrick Centre, which has been regularly targeted by unruly youths.

Wardens spotted teenagers throwing glass bottles at the multi-million pound centre dedicated to Ireland’s patron saint and shouting abuse at a staff member who works in a nearby hot food bar.

PCSP members were told last night that dispersing young people in the vicinity of the St Patrick Centre was a recurring theme during the first month of the year, with one of the most worrying incidents occurring on January 29.

On that occasion, wardens who came across large number of teenagers who were drinking were verbally threatened, with the group eventually dispersed with the assistance of police.

The wardens were back at the St Patrick Centre in early February, while towards the end of the month they dispersed a group of teenagers drinking alcohol at Mary’s Lane in the town, with a number of young people warned about the dangers of under-age drinking, according to the report.

In early March, wardens on patrol in the Flying Horse area on the outskirts of the town came across a fire started by young people, while several days later wardens apprehended a group trying to set fore to a wheelie bin the middle of the Killough Road in Downpatrick. The Fire Service was alerted to extinguish the blaze.

On March 13, wardens were again forced to disperse young people drinking in the Mary’s Lane and Flying Horse areas. Police were asked to assist, with wardens also verbally abuse by a group of teenage girls who were drinking in the Dunleath area.

On St Patrick’s Day, young people pelted a telephone box in Market Street with eggs and one young girl was so intoxicated that wardens remained with her until mother came to take her home.

It was also confirmed at last night’s meeting that police have undertaken a review of increasing anti-social behaviour in the Cathedral area of Downpatrick with police confirming that there are additional patrols and investigations ongoing in relation to criminal damage reports.

In Newcastle, wardens responded to a number of incidents in the Donard Park and Downs Road areas where teenagers had gathered to drink alcohol. A number of those at the Downs Road were also playing loud music.

Teenagers who ped rubbish at the tennis courts at Bryansford Road were made to dispose of it properly by wardens while on February 27, police were alerted alerted after wardens spotted several cars and a Jeep racing each other along Main Street in the resort.

On March 13, wardens saw a number of young people drinking alcohol at the promenade who subsequently dispersed when they were about to be approached.

The overview of the incidents community safety wardens have responded to comes after police gave a commitment to step up patrols in trouble hot spots in Downpatrick town centre.

The confirmation came during a live online question and answer session involving young people and a local PSNI Inspector which took place after a series of anti-social behaviour incidents across the town centre which included an arson attack at the former Downe Hospital site which is being transformed into a new social housing development.

In addition to the recent fire at the former hospital site, there have been a number of fire and criminal damage incidents in Downpatrick town centre with the ongoing trouble linked to a roving gang of young people.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s Policing and Community Safety Partnership, which is drawing up a new anti-social behaviour strategy, welcomed the recent initiative involving police and young people and hopes similar events can be rolled out across the district.