RESIDENTS in a Strabane estate have revealed that some parents are ‘afraid’ to bring their children to the local play park, due to burgeoning antisocial behaviour.
Speaking out this week, householders in Carlton Drive have described how the play park is increasingly being used by teenagers who play football within the facility, with the result that residents’ cars, windows and homes are repeatedly being smacked by balls.
One resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, noted that neighbours who previously approached the teens have been verbally abused.
Speaking to the Chronicle, the man said, “The play park in Carlton Drive is just that, a play park – with swings, slides and other toys for tots and younger children to play on.
“However, a group of children around the teenage years, some of whom don’t even come from the estate, seem to have taken over the area, and have been using it as a football pitch in recent months.
“The park is situated close to a lot of houses and cars, and, day and daily in recent months, you can hear the numerous bangs, as footballs are beaten off people’s walls, fences, windows and their cars.
“Sooner or later, something is going to end up getting damaged.
“Residents have tried to speak with them, but end up with a mouthful of cheek.
“What was a play park for toddlers and young children has become a free-for-all.”
The local man also highlighted the potential for serious injury to young children.
The local man continued, “It’s only going to get worse as the nights get lighter. The situation has become so bad that parents are now afraid to bring their youngsters to the park for much needed-leisure time; it shouldn’t be this way. Understandably, they do not want their young child exposed to an area where there is an ongoing football match in a place that, simply put, is not designed for it. Getting hit by a football is bad enough if you’re an older child or an adult, but imagine getting whacked in the face by the ball if you’re a child. It doesn’t bear thinking what physical damage could be caused to a young toddler if they get hit. A visit to the surgery or the hospital is something which is a very real possibility.
“All the residents have been complaining about the constant noise to each other. I have gone to council myself, and asked that the play park be given strict opening and closing times, and a ‘no ball games’ sign be erected. So far, the sign has yet to be erected, and I was told with regards to opening and closing times that ‘there was nothing they could do’.
“I was told that the key to lock the park cannot be given out to one individual to lock the place at night; only a community group. I don’t know where else to turn. These kids don’t understand the nuisance they’re causing.”
Cllr Paul Gallagher has echoed the residents’ call for council action, saying, “Council needs to engage with the local community on this matter to try and implement a maintenance plan for the play park in terms of proper management of its opening and closing hours and proper maintenance for the general upkeep.”
In response to concerns, a spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council said, “We are aware of ongoing issues with regards to the playpark in the Carlton Drive estate in Strabane, and are looking at a number of options to address the issues. We would encourage parents to remind young people the facilities are there for everyone to enjoy, and to respect the local residents who live in close proximity to the park.”