02 June 2005

Irelandclick.com

Caught in the crossfire

Residents of a West Belfast street say they are becoming increasingly alarmed by a bitter rivalry between local children which has already resulted in injury and damage to property of local residents.

A number of homes in the Westrock Grove area have been caught in the crossfire between rival gangs from the Beechmount and Whiterock areas who converge on the area to throw stones and bottles and hurl abuse at each other. Some of the rioters are young as four years-of-age, say locals.

Resident and former youth worker Anthony Parker says he is disgusted by the behaviour and is at his wits end trying to combat the problem.

“These kids come up the hill from Beechmount and over from Whiterock and throw stones and bottles and anything they can find at each other and our homes are bearing the brunt of this,” said Anthony.

“One resident of this street has had to board up her windows and her glass patio doors because they were destroyed by stones being thrown, another resident had all her windows broken and got hit in the mouth by a brick. This has to stop, enough is enough,” he added.

“There has always been a rivalry between local children. I’ll even admit doing this myself when I was younger, but it was just fun then, it was playful and we had plenty of room to run away, because this was just all open fields years ago. We certainly wouldn’t have been destroying people’s homes and then these kids have the cheek to stand and defy adults, the language they use is just foul.”

The violence, which has been going on for the past eight nights according to Anthony, has been an ongoing problem for years, but has escalated now as the days lengthen.

Ironically, Westrock Grove, which is now awash with bricks, bottles and broken glass, was voted Best Kept Street in 1989, but given recent events, say residents, the street has become a nightmare to live in and requires urgent attention from the Housing Executive to curb the tide of teenagers who are entering the area through broken fences and unsecured pathways.

“This area has in recent years been terrorised by glue-sniffers, joyriders and wee thugs, and that’s bad enough, but this is just getting out of hand and the parents of these young children should make sure they are safely at home, not terrorising this area.”

A spokesperson for the Housing Executive told the Andersonstown News that no complaints about a broken fence at Westrock Grove have been received by the Housing Executive, but added: “In light of the information received from the Andersonstown News the Housing Executive is making arrangements to inspect the fence and carry out any necessary repairs.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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