John Roberts Square antics are “unwelcome”
GANGS of youths are creating an intimidating atmosphere in Waterford City Centre and engaging in anti-social behaviour which is spiralling out of control.
Pre-arranged fights, drug taking, alcohol consumption and threatening behaviour are among the activities which some groups of teenagers are engaging in on a regular basis – events which are threatening to impact on Winterval and the city’s profile, according to local business people and political representatives.
Many concerned locals took to Facebook throughout the past week to highlight their concerns and outline incidents which they witnessed in the city centre, with some describing the events as “terrifying”.
A number of parents outlined their distress at having their children witness such scenes while enjoying the attractions on offer for Winterval including the Carousel in John Roberts Square.
Cllr Eddie Mulligan (FF), who has consistently been raising the issue, says the ongoing trend of anti-social behaviour amongst teenagers in the city needs to be tackled urgently.
He has described the activities taking place as “inexcusable and intolerable” and says he is receiving ongoing representations from people who feel “intimidated” including vulnerable inner city residents.
“The incidents reported to me are of very large groups of 30 to 60 threatening teenagers gathering in the city centre late in the evening,” he said.
“Not only are these gatherings causing a nuisance to the city’s food outlets, but a significant number of individuals are verbally abusing passers-by, kicking footballs and throwing objects at members of the public. They are even engaging in fighting and I have no doubt that these are pre-arranged fights. In addition, there are incidents of smoking, underage alcohol consumption and illegal drug taking.”
He added: “I have passed these groups myself, with my family. We too have felt very intimidated as they openly insult each other and fight amongst themselves. The air is thick with vile language and nasty vocabulary, which is not suitable for younger children to observe. I have also witnessed the Gardaí disperse these youths but sometimes with great difficulty.”
Cllr Mulligan says the youths are drawn to the fast food restaurants in the area and may also be attracted by the availability of free Wi-Fi.
“We welcome teenagers into the city centre, but not when they are amalgamating in quite large numbers and engaging in anti-social behaviour,” he said.
“We want our teenagers to act as good citizens, enjoy the free activities and public realm space but we don’t want anti-social behaviour.”
Cllr Mulligan, who has also highlighted large gatherings of youths engaging in anti-social behaviour in the Dunmore Road area, is calling on parents to “step up to their responsibilities”.
“I’ve seen parents dropping off kids on the Dunmore Road with alcohol in bags and collecting them later on,” he said.
“The first question they should be asking is what are they going to be up to? I unequivocally believe that parents must shoulder the responsibility of knowing exactly where their teenagers are, who they are with and the type of behaviour that they are engaging in. Parents must also be observant of the state of mind of their teenagers when they return home.”
According to Cllr Mulligan, the absence of sufficient Council Community Workers on the ground, due to new staffing arrangements, means that local government is failing in being the focal point for solutions.
He has repeatedly raised these issues at Council and Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meetings.
“The Gardaí are not the solution for engaging with and stopping the anti-social behaviour by the youths of Waterford,” said Cllr Mulligan.
“Yes, they are part of the solution. However, there is a collaborative community responsibility and it must be realised by all. We really need to engage with these teenagers as a society – listen to them and work jointly to uncover solutions that will see the anti-social behaviour reduce, through meaningful organised activities.”
Cllr Mulligan has requested that the plan includes a collaborative approach to engaging with children and young people, with a view to tackling the escalating anti-social behaviour issues.
“We need immediate, medium and long term solutions to engaging with teenagers. Parents, Gardaí, the Local Government, Tusla, as well as organisations such as Foroige and Barnardos all need to come on board as stakeholders to find suitable outcomes,” he said.
Cllr Mulligan has stated that at next JPC meeting he will be requesting that tackling teenage anti-social behaviour in Waterford is made a priority.