Falls plan targets antisocial behaviour

Falls plan targets antisocial behaviour

An anti-social behaviour action plan has been launched in a bid to help a west Belfast community.

The Lower Falls area has suffered ongoing problems with youths intimidating residents.

Community development worker Carl McKee said there is a small element engaging in "anti-community behaviour" in the area.

"The likes of 'death-driving', on-street drinking and basically intimidation of residents," he explained.

"But it is a very small minority of young people.

"Most of the young people who live in this community are involved in some of the great sporting clubs, boxing, football- and there's great work that goes on by the Falls youth providers to provide a great service for the young people."

The initiative launched by Sinn Féin is hoping to tackle some of these problems by improving conditions for the local community.

"We have a great opportunity for the community to move forward in a positive manner by developing the area through environmental improvements, educational initiatives, increasing employment opportunities, safer communities and in general helping to grow further that great pride that the Falls Community is so well known for," Mr Maskey explained.

The party says it will be working with the police, council and other agencies to address concerns about safety.

The project is being part-funded by Stormont, but Sinn Féin is also lobbying for additional long-term investment.

"We have an acute problem with anti-social behaviour in the area but of course it's also one of the most deprived areas in the north, and certainly in Belfast, so we recognise what's required is a pretty determined multi-agency intervention in the area which will help turn the area around and create a safer, cleaner, better place to live for people," the party's councillor Jim McVeigh said.

It's a matter of ensuring that the message is going out to young people that there is a future for them, there is hope for the future.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

As part of a wider strategy launched in November, the PSNI is also increasing its visibility on the Falls Road and stepping up bail checks.

"Since the start of that operation we have made over 130 arrests within the Divis area alone, and over 350 arrests across the lower Falls area of west Belfast," Area Commander Emma Bond said.

She added that people wanted to see officers on the streets in "real community-based policing".

"We won't be successful without the work of the community. I would like to encourage the community to continue to report incidents to us to let us know, and ensure we are fully informed around what their issues are," she said.

"We have taken the decision to extend the operation beyond its end date of January until the end of March to show our commitment to policing the area."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said representatives from the Executive, council and others working alongside the PSNI was making "a real difference".

"It gives local communities a sense that something is being done," he said.

"In the lower Falls area there has been a problem with anti-social behaviour, car theft and young people being involved in things that are absolutely detrimental to themselves and their own ability to fulfill their own potential in life.

"But also hugely detrimental to the local community, and I think this is a very serious attempt, led by Paul Maskey, to address those issues."

The minister said an £80m social investment fund had been set up to allow communities across Northern Ireland to support projects deemed important in their area.

He added: "I suppose also given the events in east Belfast in the course of the last eight weeks or so this is something that can also happen in areas like this, but it requires politicians to give leadership, it requires everybody to recognise the need to work together in a joined up way."

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