‘If anti social behaviour is a concern for the community, it is a concern for us’
After the city’s historic Hilden Mill was set on fire recently, there have been serious concerns about the level of anti social behaviour, especially amongst young people in Lisburn.
The PSNI said that just hours after the blaze, they were called again to deal with numerous reports of children entering the mill site and stopped some as young as 12 from going into the “unsafe” abandoned former mill.
Speaking after the fire, Chief Inspector Jonathan Wilson, who is part of the community engagement team in Lisburn, said that he did not want to “criminalise” young people but needed to get the message out that they needed to keep themselves from getting into dangerous situations.
“For us the concern is that young people are unintentionally putting themselves at risk,” said CI Wilson. “We were all young once and we know that young people want to gather and have fun together but they maybe don’t appreciate the consequences for the wider community.
“We have seen a spike in anti social behaviour over the last year. Some of that is related to Covid but even without that we have seen an increase in anti social behaviour.
“Speaking to young people I want them to be safe and to enjoy themselves safely and we will continue to work with our partners to help develop activities where they can engage and socialise in a safe environment.
“My role is not to criminalise children, if a child engages in criminal activity we will deal with that, but it is about trying to work with our partners, the local community and voluntary sector groups to engage and help to keep our kids safe when they are out and about.
“We want to reassure people that if anti social behaviour is a concern for the community, it is a concern for us as well.”
The police have been working with community groups across the city to engage with young people and to tackle anti social behaviour.
One of the groups which has been working tirelessly throughout the lockdown to combat anti social behaviour is the Resurgam Youth Initiative.
Resurgam Youth Initiative (RYI) is part of the Lisburn Outreach Forum, which also includes YMCA, Damask, and the Education Authority.
The outreach youth teams engage with young people throughout the city of Lisburn on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Resurgam Youth Initiative’s four youth work teams are deployed onto the streets to engage with young people who may be displaying risk taking behaviour.
Young people are provided with an opportunity to take part in a wide range of activities such as Community Development, Active Citizenship, Healthy Eating & Mental Health Awareness, Drug and Alcohol Awareness, Sporting Activities, Accredited courses in Youth Leadership and Creative Arts.
RYI’s outreach youth workers look to engage with these young people and provide them with diversionary activities as well as provide them with information regarding risk taking behaviour and the consequences their actions now, can have later on in life.
A spokesperson for the RYI explained: “During Covid-19, due to the respective restrictions at the specific time, we have been limited to what youth provision we can deliver. However, we do have the experience, resources and the tools of the trade to enable us to deliver youth provision in a detached capacity. Out and about is normally where the disengaged young people feel more comfortable rather than in a youth centre-based environment. The outreach teams use ‘Beer Goggles’ to highlight the risks of being under the influence of alcohol, they also provide information cards relating to various drugs and the lasting effects they can have on the body.
“The outreach teams also signpost young people to the various youth centres in Lisburn who provide drop in youth clubs on Friday and Saturday nights as well as upcoming events such as the summer youth provision which runs for four weeks during the summer months. The summer youth provision includes activities such as educational visits, sporting competitions, social excursions, and creative arts programmes.”
Esther Millar, Senior Youth Officer said: “EA Youth Service has been working in partnership with voluntary youth service providers and other statutory partners to support young people and address ongoing issues regarding anti-social behaviour within the Lisburn area.
“We recognise that this has been a particularly difficult year for young people due to Covid and the significant impact it has had on their personal and social development. As restrictions ease young people want to be out with friends in public spaces to interact with peers and enjoy the increased freedom the ease in restrictions brings, however it is important that young people remain safe and respect the public spaces within which they meet.
“Each weekend youth service providers employ detached youth work teams on a Friday and Saturday evening to engage with young people on the streets particularly at key hotspot areas to build relationships with young people, encourage young people to make good choices whilst on the street and to raise awareness of the range of safe alternatives for young people being provided by youth services across the city
“These spaces are provided in the form of youth centre provision or through targeted youth work and diversionary programmes. Dedicated youth work staff also engage on a regular basis with Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, the PSNI and PCSP Officers to ensure that young people are supported and remain safe whilst on the streets. This partnership working is vital to ensure that resources are targeted efficiently and effectively, particularly as we move into the summer months and to ensure services continue to meet the needs of children and young people across Lisburn and Castlereagh.”