STRABANE is becoming an increasingly safe place to socialise with the number of public order disturbances down by more than 50 per-cent in the past three years.
According to latest figures from the PSNI, during 2014 police officers were tasked to deal with 61 incidents. In 2015 that figure dropped to 33 while last year the PSNI only had to deal with 29 public order incidents.
Neighbourhood Sergeant Davy McIlwaine said the decrease in trouble was due to the good work being done between police, local community groups and the town’s business sector.
“Over the last number of years we have put in place dedicated patrols in Strabane on Friday and Saturday nights focused on the night time economy,” Sgt McIlwaine said.
“Assaults and disorder tend to occur when alcohol is involved and we have done a lot of work with the licensees and the wider community to make sure our town centre is a safe place to socialise.
The schools and youth groups are also doing quite a bit of work in terms of dissuading younger ones from abusing alcohol and getting involved in fights and disorder and we would support that with the work we do with students through our Citizenship and Safety Education programme.”
Manager of Dicey Riley’s bar on Strabane’s Market Street, Chris Hendry, welcomed the decrease in disturbances and said the local Vintners Association had worked hard to make the town a safer place for revellers.
“It is obvious that a lot of good work has been done within the community to address what was certainly a major point of concern for us all in the town,” said Mr Hendry.
“For too long Strabane town centre has had a reputation for fighting, anti-social behaviour and an abundance of arrests. Painfully, we have all heard names such as ‘Strabanistan’ being used to describe Abercorn Square at the weekend. Therefore these statistics have to be viewed as positive and embraced by the town.
“Of the town’s pub visitors, 99.9 per-cent are absolutely no trouble whatsoever and enjoy socialising to the maximum without anyone raising an eyebrow. Unfortunately not everyone can handle their drink and incidents will happen. Thankfully these are rare and tend to be isolated.
“From our point of view, the local vintners meet up regularly and I am glad to say we have a close working relationship. At these meetings we discuss any matters of a serious nature that have occurred since our last discussion. It would be common for us to raise awareness of any issues around persistent troublemakers and make fellow workers aware of them. This helps create a better atmosphere and environment for us all.”
The Dicey’s manager said community groups, sports clubs and youth workers across Strabane deserved credit for their part in driving down public disorder.
He added, “The police would also have to take credit for building a good working relationship with the shops, local businesses and pubs in the area, addressing our concerns and making us aware of any local problems therein. They also clear up the town earlier now which is a major help to us all and definitely has helped.”
Offering suggestions on how trouble in the town centre could be reduced further, the publican said CCTV would be an effective weapon in tackling anti-social problems.
“To reduce these numbers further I would suggest an intercom service within all pubs, especially over the weekends and busy periods, where real-time incidents could be shared or dangers flagged and potential problems averted.
“Another system would be town CCTV, covering crime hotspots. This has been an effective tool against crime in many towns and cities, especially in recent years.”