RESIDENTS in Strabane have said they will push to have the pedestrian bridge closed at night, in a bid to curb extreme antisocial behaviour.
Speaking out this week, people living in Townsend Street, Meetinghouse Street and Barrack Street have cited on-street fighting, vandalism and drug taking as just some of the increasingly regular incidents which are conspiring to make life more and more unbearable.
They say teenagers – some as young as 15 – habitually use the bridge as a drinking den and also as a means of moving quickly between the Ballycolman and the Head of the Town for various nefarious activities.
“I’m here 18 years and this last year and a half it’s been terrible,” one local resident said this week. “Any resident on this street will tell you the same thing.”
The man, who preferred not to be named for fear of repercussions added, “They’re always fighting, during the week they were trying to smash lights on the bridge. There are a lot of old people in this area and I really feel for them.
“My car, over the years has been damaged and in my street alone there has been two attacks in three weeks.
“Since the bridge opened, this has gradually got worse and worse – it makes things easier for them – groups with as many as 15 – to come down and start drinking on the river bank and then they come up into the street and everything else starts.”
Ultimately, the resident believes people are being “terrorised” by the youths.
“I’ve chased one who was kicking the car,” he continued. “Another woman had her window smashed. They’re smashing bottles in the street, and just being rowdy and hanging around.
“It’s one thing them drinking on the banking but it’s a whole different level when they’re damaging property and kicking cars.”
The situation has deteriorated to such an extent, the local man said couldn’t rule out moving away from the area if something isn’t done.
“We’re going to have to push for gates so as to have the bridge closed at night,” he confirmed. “It seems like the only way to stop it.”
Speaking on behalf of residents, Cllr Raymond Barr said the situation has come to a head.
“On Saturday night past one lady had the window of her car smashed and others have had wing mirrors ripped off and cars damaged by youths jumping on bonnets,” he explained. “Some residents, particularly elderly have become prisoners in their homes, terrified to venture out at night.
Residents claim the trouble is being caused by youths who, after spending hours drinking and taking illegal substances on the Ballycolman side of the footbridge, are coming across and terrorising residents.
“The PSNI are aware of the problem and I will be requesting a meeting with them to examine ways of solving the problem. It’s totally unacceptable that people have to live in fear.”
He concluded, “Demands for the bridge to be closed are disappointing but at the same time, justified.”
Sinn Fein councillor, Michaela Boyle called on parents to take greater responsibility.
“This is obviously an ongoing issue and in some cases we’re talking about very young teenagers,” she said. “And it’s not an evening time issue. This problem can go on all day, where young people are gathering in the early morning and drinking all day.
“Those responsible, which would be parents, need to know where their children are at.
“This is a social problem that everybody needs to get to grips with.”