A garda has warned there could be “a serious loss of life” if gangs of youths continue rampaging at a municipal park in a Cork satellite town, writes Sean O’Riordan.
Gangs of up to 250-strong take over the John O’Callaghan Park, in Glanmire, nightly, with many involved in drug-taking and dealing, underage drinking, arson, and vandalism.
In an incident last week, stones were thrown at a fire brigade crew as they tried to put out a blaze deliberately set in the park.
Passing vehicles regularly have windscreens smashed by youths who throw rocks at them from a hilly area in the park, which overlooks the busy main road in Riverstown.
Condoms and used syringes have also been left strewn near a children’s play area.
Community garda, Noel Fitzgerald, told a county council meeting that the park had also been the scene of serious sexual assaults and of drug dealing, including of heroin.
Garda Fitzgerald said that gangs of youths were not all local.
Some were from city suburbs, Mayfield and Mahon, and many arrived with rucksacks “full of drink”.
“Something has to be done, sooner rather than later,” Garda Fitzgerald said.
“There could be a serious loss of life there. Our gardaí are getting calls every day of the week.
“It’s definitely escalating there.”
Garda Fitzgerald urged local residents, concerned about incidents, to ring gardaí immediately.
Community groups and gardaí have asked the council to erect fencing and additional lighting and to install CCTV in an effort to quell the situation.
Community seeks CCTV in Glanmire park over teenage gangs
Teenage gangs are causing so much trouble in a public park that the local authority is planning to take a number of measures to combat it, including installing CCTV and linking it to Garda stations.
Gardaí and locals outlined a litany of antisocial behaviour in a meeting with council officials to discuss measures which could be taken to combat almost nightly trouble at the park in a Cork satellite town.
Underage drinking, drug-dealing, drug-taking, arson, and wanton vandalism by gangs of youths up to 250-strong have blighted John O’Callaghan Park in Glanmire.
Gardaí have set up extra patrols to try to curb the trouble, but have often returned to their patrol cars after such forays to find vehicles deliberately damaged.
Local people who have challenged youths have been verbally abused on a regular basis.
One woman told a meeting of the Cobh/Glanmire municipal district council that a youth stole her wheelie bin from outside her door to set it alight in the park. When she confronted him, he swore at her and continued to walk off with the bin.
Wheelie bins are constantly being stolen from houses and set alight in the park. Cars, meanwhile, are being regularly damaged.
A committee which cleans up the park has become frustrated with the regular sight of burnt seating, repeated vandalism of the children’s playground, discarded condoms, and syringes, along with huge volumes of empty drink cans and other litter.
Cllr Ger Keohane (Ind), who arranged for the delegation to meet council officials, said the youths are out of control. He said he recently confronted some of them in the park and they had threatened him for challenging their behaviour.
The delegation pleaded with council officials for fencing, additional lighting, and Garda-monitored CCTV to be installed in the park.
Council engineers said it would be impossible to fence off the entire park as there are too many entrances.
However, they agreed with community Garda Noel Fitzgerald that they might fence off the main entrance as it would make it more difficult for youths to steal wheelie bins and bring them in to the park.
The officials will also consider fencing off the children’s playground to make it inaccessible at nighttime.
Some children had reportedly been injured on broken glass deliberately left in the area.
Stones are being thrown at passing vehicles travelling along the busy main road between Riverstown and Glanmire village.
The location for the stone throwing is a hill inside the park. While the vast majority of the park is owned by the council, there is confusion over who owns the hill and what, if anything, could be done to tackle the problem.
Cllr Sinead Sheppard (FG) said the council was having to replace stolen lifebuoys along the park’s riverside walk and vandalised play equipment on a regular basis.
Council officials said they were also planning to put additional lights in the park and upgrade existing ones.
Municipal district chairman Cllr Padraig O’Sullivan (FF) said they would seek funding for a CCTV system.
This story originally appeared in the Irish Examiner.