BUSINESS owners in the town centre say they are at ‘the end of their tether’ with the sheer volume of anti-social behaviour on Friday and Saturday nights.
They claim groups of drunk teenagers on the rampage are vandalising, threatening staff and intimidating people away from their businesses.
Business owners say that gangs aged from 13 up to 18-years-old are congregating in the town centre on weekends, drinking in the alley running between Castle Street and the John Wesley Street car park. They say staff have been threatened, bins placed up against back doors and set alight, cars vandalised and customers intimidated.
Anoop Guram, who works at Masala in Castle Street, says many of the business owners are ‘in despair’ over the anti-social behaviour.
“This part of town is being overrun by young people intent on anti-social behaviour,” he said. “Every Friday and Saturday night it’s the same. Gangs of teenagers gather there drinking, roaming up and down insulting people, smashing windows, smashing glass bottles.
“They stole a child’s pushchair last week and set it on fire in the alleyway. They are urinating and defecating in the alley, they are bouncing off shutters and cars. They are hassling people and people are wary about coming into the town centre, people are feeling intimidated.
“This is a great town, it is a pity that this behaviour is bringing the place down. It needs tackled. We need CCTV cameras and we need more police on the ground at weekends.”
Another Castle Street trader, who was too fearful to be named, says that parents need to take responsibility for their children.
“On a Friday and Saturday night there are children as young as 12 and 13 drinking in the street,”he said. “They are smashing bottles in the car park, they put bins up against our back door and set them on fire. Parents need to know what their children are at. It’s the age of mobile phones, they need to be calling them and asking what they are up to. They need to take responsibility.”
The manager of Subway, who did not want to be identified, said that her staff have been threatened and that the branch have had to pull back their opening times to close earlier due to threats to staff and anti-social behaviour.
“They are so cheeky, they threaten staff, they threaten to smash our windows, they throw glass bottles about. There is always a big crowd of them hanging around at weekends drinking in the alley. We have spoken to police on numerous occasions but we never see them around. There can be around 40 or 50 young people in the alley on those nights, the staff are too frightened to walk down there. We used to open to 9pm but have had to close at 7pm because of all this. It needs to stop.”
SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said that there is an issue surrounding anti-social behaviour that is stretching back six months that needs to be tackled.
“There needs to be greater involvement with people that are there at a community level – community workers who are trusted -along with politicians to do this work.
“The PSNI also have a duty. I’m not happy with how the PSNI have been dealing with these issues. It is something that has spiralled out of control.
Local Independent councillor, Paul Gallagher, said that there needs to be a joined up approach to deal with the issue.
“There is a wide and collective responsibility,” he said. “What are council doing? What are the Educational Authority doing? What are police doing? But there is much more to this than policing and there has to be a combination approach, the communities and the Vintners Association, the Chamber of Commerce, there needs to be a collective approach to this. It cannot be done by one single organisation. And it can’t be from a purely condemnation approach. It has to be solution based.”