Claims of rise in ‘gang culture’ in Portadown after child threatened with machete

There are no ‘No-Go’ areas in Portadown says the PSNI amid claims ‘gang culture’ is taking over parts of the town.

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 1:55 pm

DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley has called for urgent action ‘to restore law and order’ in parts of Portadown with what he claims is the emergence of ‘gang culture’

Mr Buckley was speaking after claims a child was threatened with a machete by drug dealers in the Corcrain Woods area last week.

The child’s grandfather said his 13-year-old grandson was in the woods with a friend at the end of last month when they came upon a gang of youths.

Upper Bann MLA Jonathan Buckley who is demanding that action be taken against drug gangs who are taking over the streets in Portadown.

The grandfather said: “They were all black, foreign nationals and seemed to be on drugs. They had weapons and one of them brandished a machete at my grandson.”

The man said his daughter’s partner went down to the woods to see what was going on and his daughter followed in another vehicle. “They {the gang} were very intimidating and started to fire bottles at his car,” he said.

The man, whose identity is anonymous to protect his grandson, claims there has been a surge in gang violence particularly around Garvaghy Road, the People’s Park and in Corcrain woods.

He also claims there has been a rise in the number of people using Spice (a cheap pyschotic drug) and that more dealers appear to be using weapons.

“My worry is for my grandson as there have been so many fatalities around these drugs. I think the police are under manned and they are intimidated by these large gangs.

“We need a bigger police presence particularly at the weekends. It wouldn’t surprise me if vigilantes didn’t start protecting the area.”

Mr Buckley described the rise in ‘gang culture’ as ‘alarming’.

“Those involved have been responsible for violent and intimidatory behaviour, being in possession of machetes and other harmful weapons, peddling drugs and causing criminal damage.

“Many will be aware of the horrific scenes of violence that took place at the People’s Park recently involving a large gathering.

“Since this occurred I have been informed of further scores of criminality taking place in broad daylight amidst our community, including an incident in which a child was threatened with a weapon whilst returning from school in the Corcrain area.

“I understand that this particular organised gang is largely made up of foreign nationals and identify themselves with their own gang name.

“There are many people that are afraid to publicly confront this issue, for fear of being branded as a racist but I will call out any and all behaviour that has a damaging effect on our local community.

“I am grateful to the local community groups that have raised the prevalence of gangs with me personally and with the police and for their efforts in highlighting instances of criminality that are becoming increasingly common. However, it is clear they need help.

“Urgent action must now be taken to address this situation and to make our communities safer places, and I am calling on the police, the council and multi-agencies to start getting tough on criminality and gang culture. If this continues to go unchallenged, sections of our community will become no-go zones and local people will feel more vulnerable than ever before. It is time to restore law and order.”

PSNI Sergeant McNeill said: “Our officers patrol all areas of the town and are committed to working alongside partner agencies, local representatives and members of the community to address any problems that may arise, including anti-social behaviour and drugs criminality.

“I would encourage anyone affected by any criminal activity to contact police in order to enable us to take action.

“Any incident can be reported on the non-emergency number 101.

“A report can also be made using the online reporting form via www.psni.police.uk/makeareport. Alternatively, information can be provided to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.”

It is understood the PSNI regard the incident in the People’s Park as ‘an isolated incident involving visitors who had travelled to the town for a football match’

The PSNI also insist there are no ‘no go’ zones.

A spokesperson for Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council said: ““Council is working with the PSNI and other partners to encourage the reporting of any antisocial and criminal behaviour directly to PSNI via 101 or 999. 101 should be used for all non-emergency issues and 999 if immediate assistance is required. Reports can also be made on-line to www.psni.police.uk or anonymously by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111”

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