Arson attack on house during crime spree

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Thugs gathering at Connolly Place have been accused of terrorising the local community, after one house was gutted in an arson attack.

One local resident blamed lack of action by the local council, who he had repeatedly asked to put up a gate at the alleyway to thwart junkies from congregating.

David Robinson, who has been living there for the past ten years, described a weekend of hell. “On Friday night more than half a dozen youths gathered at the alley drinking and drugging from around 9pm and at around 11pm one man went out to confront the gang about the noise and anti-social behaviour.

“They attacked him, punched and kicked him while he was on the ground. They were relentless.

“I was very concerned that he was going to get killed. I got my umbrella and went to try and help him.

“One of them grabbed at my umbrella and the others started to charge at me. I ran back into my house and slammed closed the door. They then tried to boot my door in. I had to put chairs up to barricade the door,” said David who couldn’t call the police as he had lost his phone in the affray.

“I saw the man just laying there unconscious in the street. Then he slowly started to sit up and was clearly disorientated. He was swaying as he tried to get up. The thugs then started to throw cans and bottles at him. He got up and staggered back to his property,” he said.

David said around a dozen louts gathered at the alley on Saturday night drinking and drugging into the small hours. However he was awaked with a loud bang in the early hours of Sunday morning.

“I went down and it was like something out of a movie with fire service and police. The house next door was alight with flames flying out of it.

“One man was just standing there in his pyjamas with two black eyes, covered in cuts and bruises, just watching as his house went up in flames,” he said. “What angers me is that this all could have been prevented. We have been asking for a gate to be put up at that alley to deter these thugs from gathering there.

“When we ring the police they don’t seem to deal with them, just turn up hours after we call when the thugs have gone or, if they are there, maybe take their names. They think they can get away with it.

“The council have not listened to us when we asked for a gate. Someone could have died.

“The Council seems to think that if they did nothing this would all fizzle out. Well it hasn’t. It has got worse. And it is going to go on until someone does get killed.

“The people in this area are terrified. We have done our best to get action but no one is taking it seriously.”

Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Council said in a statement: “Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s Policing and Community Safety Partnership, Community Development and Environmental Health teams have been working together with the PSNI in relation to complaints received about anti-social behavior and fly tipping in this area.

“In relation to the request for a gate, Council has powers under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (NI) 2011 to make a gating order under specific conditions. Unfortunately, this particular alleyway does not fall under the remit of the Act.

“Council continues to work in partnership with the relevant agencies to assist and support the community on managing the levels of anti-social behavior. Council is also working to alleviate incidents of fly tipping and have taken action to remove litter from the area.”

The PSNI said: “Police in Lurgan investigate all reports made about issues which can have a negative impact on them and the wider community, including anti-social behaviour, which is part of our commitment to keeping people safe.”

Chief Inspector Jon Burrows said: “In particular, if residents have concerns about Connolly Place and the surrounding area, police are happy to meet with residents and discuss those concerns. We have always, and will continue to work closely with the respective communities to comprehensively address issues as they arise, as well as continually build upon and enhance the already strong links that exist. Community support is essential as we seek to make our neighbourhoods safer.

“We understand the effect anti-social behaviour can have on the local community and we would appeal to parents to always know where their children are and what they are doing.

“It is essential that young people understand the effect their actions can have on the wider community and the consequences of being involved in disruptive behaviour. While we do not want to see young people entering the criminal justice system at an early age, we do need to make sure that when detected for anti-social or criminal behaviour that they learn from their actions.

“Anyone with any concerns or information should contact police in Lurgan on 101.”