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Crime spirals in park/graveyard

By Ciara Quinn

INCIDENTS of anti-social behaviour in the Falls Park and City Cemetery have almost doubled in a year.
Figures contained in this month’s Belfast City Council minutes show that reports to Council staff of drunken, nuisance behaviour, criminal and environmental damage and street drinking in the Upper Falls electoral area have increased from 172 in 2013 to 262. The shock rise is centred on the council’s sprawling Falls Park and City Cemetery sites.
Laganbank in South Belfast traditionally sits top of the Council list of shame, as it’s home to so many bars and clubs and houses of multiple occupancy. But incidents there have plummeted in the past year from 959 to 276 and now Upper Falls is running it a close second. Sinn Féin Councillor Steven Corr described the figures as “extremely worrying”.
“These numbers are coming in as we see major investment being pumped into Falls Park with the 3G pitch, £300,000 worth of upgrades at the children’s play park and community allotments,” he said. “Falls Park/City Cemetery has seen a massive increase in young people gathering and we appeal for parents to keep their young people out of it. We are by no means castigating all young people but we have noted sinister characters moving into the Falls Park primarily to sell drugs. There have been reported instances of theft and vandalism in the City Cemetery, for instance the Cross of Sacrifice was covered in graffiti during August and we have had physical attacks on people visiting and paying their respects to their loved ones.
“We have been contacted by a number of concerned parents and basically we think there is a disaster waiting to happen here in terms of young people drinking and taking drugs.”
“Mickey Culbert and his team are a credit to the Park. What we need are parents to speak to their children. These figures speak for themselves and are extremely worrying.”
SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said the figures are a serious matter of concern to the Council and wider community.
He added: “So much work has been done by Park Manager Mickey Culbert and staff to animate the park especially during the day and with the new allotments, upgrade of the play park and the renovation work penciled for the City Cemetery Gate Lodge. People want to use the park and its facilities in a positive way and it is regrettable that there are some who want to use it in a negative way,” he said.
“We need a determined action here, not just from Council, the PSNI and local representatives but something similar to the Divis intervention model – a multi-agency approach, to ensure the park is open and free for all who want to use it in a positive way.”
Local councillor and resident Caoimhín Mac Giolla Mhín said organised events have and would help “undesirables” to disappear.

“Every night last week the Falls Park was trashed because it was mid-term break. The only exception was the morning after the organised Féile fireworks display, where we had 6,000 families turn up and attend with their families and celebrate what was a tremendous community event.
There was no damage, no destruction done. This only goes to prove that when we have the place lit up and have organised events and sporting activities the undesirables will disappear, which in turn makes life so much easier for the park staff.”

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