West Belfast resident plagued by vandals

Published Monday, 12 November 2012
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One woman has described how she has been terrorised by anti-social behaviour in west Belfast as police launch a new initiative targeting the major problem in the area.

West Belfast resident plagued by vandals
Joanne's house has been vandalised hundreds of times. (© UTV)

Joanne O'Toole, a mother of five, who lives in the Falls area has been targeted by vandals hundreds of times.

She said that being in the house each night was like going through "hell and back".

"Just having to have your doors locked up.. the gate's lying at the back where it was booted in at the weekend," she told UTV.

The worst episode was when her teenage son sustained severe burns when the family's motorbike was set on fire.

"I was traumatised, the wee boy was traumatised, he was in the hospital for two weeks with his feet burnt and then he ended up in a wheelchair. He still has problems with his feet now at the minute.

She continued: "My daughter was lying in bed there two weeks ago, and they put a squib through her bedroom. It burnt right through to her quilt. Windows been egged, windows been smashed, walls at the front knocked down, everything. It's atrocious."

Sitting with no windows, in the darkness in your own kitchen..it's like being in prison.

Joanne O'Toole

Joanne has reported every incident to police but she says they can't do anything to stop further incidents from happening.

Joanne explains that the culprits disperse when police arrive but aren't dissuaded for long.

"They (police) come in, they drive round, they move them on but they're back as soon as they leave."

A group calling themselves the 'Divis Hoods' are known to people in the area for being responsible for anti-social behavior.

Many people in the area are too afraid to report incidents, but there has been support for the police's latest drive to tackle the problem.

"Police will be there seven days a week, from now until the end of January. It's a combined effort of all the officers we have within west Belfast in order to try and address the concerns of the local residents," west Belfast commander Emma Bond said.

Robert McClenaghan, from the Falls Residents' Association encouraged those with concerns to voice them.

"If people in the area don't feel confident to use the PSNI, then use us, use the Residents' Association, and we'll forward the information through the appropriate channels, because we have to take these people off the street," he said.

But for Joanne, she feels she can no longer stay in the area after suffering a long period of intimidation.

"Unbearable to live here. Unbearable," she said. "I cannot wait to the day I move out of here.

"It's my children I'm worried about. Nobody else. I'm a widow, I lost my husband seven years ago and I'm rearing five kids in this house."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
12 Comments
Skinny in Everywhere wrote (707 days ago):
I feel sorry for those living with these hoods. But I also can't help but think back to the fact that these areas, for many years, by use of lethal violence, refused to let the police do their job, and, you know, police. Instead they got attacked, petrol bombed and shot at. As much as I can understand why there was great distrust with the police, you also reap what you sow; And no effort was ever made by the then residents, to take the lethal element of patrolling for common criminals out of the equation. Now you are left with hoods and scum. I'm not saying that there are not the sameminded scumbags elsewhere, but at least the police know they can actually go and have a look, without worrying that someones going to trow a pipe bomb in their face.
Frosty in Here wrote (708 days ago):
@Patrick in Divis, what do you mean by 'event'? You mean the local hoods attack the homes of innocent single mums to protest and draw attention to the fact that the police think they're hoods and search them when they see them because most likely they're carrying or on their way to do something illegal? Welcome to the real world son, one day you might grow into it. But word of advice, never defend the idefensible.
john in ex belfast wrote (709 days ago):
Patrick from divis Have you ever had a thought for yourself man. The ruc has been disbanded,gone,forgotten understand.Stop trying to blame evryone else and take a long hard honest look around you. I was from divis flats and i am very very proud of it but i had to leave as the sight of these people destroying a once great area broke my heart. I lived in divis during the worst of the troubles right up to the ceasefire and believe me there was no vermin then as there is now
OldSod in Fermanagh wrote (709 days ago):
Patrick in Divis, lower falls, considering nobody has been stopped or searched or harassed by the RUC for more than 10 years,.... anybody claiming its happening daily is probably misrepresenting the facts or has a time machine,... but I suppose the dissidents need time machines to recruit their dinosaurs.....
jasper in co.antrim wrote (709 days ago):
I know this type of behaviour goes on in a lot of different areas its usually only a hand full of bad eggs but it can be bad for the residents who live in the area .Me and my family live in an estate there has been a few hoods moved in from the west and they are causing us residents to live in fear many of my neighbours have left they just cannot stick this any more so I no where this lady is coming from the police need to take ZERO tolerence against all thugs/hoods round them up bring them before the courts give them asbos carefews whatever it takes it cant go on like this no more police need more power..
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