**After I read this, I found the actual link for this story by searching Google, but the link was so long it didn't fit on the page!

Policing nightmare

By L.A. Henry
Ballymoney Times

ANTI social behaviour in Ballycastle has become so bad that extra police are being brought in seven nights a week, the Times can exclusively reveal.

Officers from the Tactical Support Group in Ballymena and Portglenone are being called upon and up to four "Polar Bear" Landrovers, similar to those that patrol flashpoint areas in Belfast are being used to prevent recurring street trouble.

Rising levels of car crime, an increasing number of assaults and friction between locals and teens from Belfast are turning the sea side resort into a policing nightmare according to one of the town’s police chiefs.

Inspector Tom Crawford who was back on the beat until 4am last weekend said that local officers were "stretched to their limit and beyond," and warned that the high level of crime could not be allowed to continue.

Last weekend police dealt with a staggering 70 incidents, a dramatic rise on the 40 for the same period last year.

"This thuggish behaviour is now happening mid week and we are finding it increasingly difficult to cope. It used to be only at weekends, but now we have to bring in extra police officers mid week. We are stretched to the limit," said Inspector Crawford.

August is traditionally the worst month for Moyle police because the amount of crime usually doubles, however Inspector Crawford admitted that: "It has started earlier this year."
"We are always busier during the summer months, but at the minute there is so much going on that we are having to review our crime strategy.

"This anti social behaviour and fighting has to stop and we will be clamping down and people will be brought before the courts," he warned.

The need for such a large police presence comes after a crowd of around 40 youths attacked officers as they dealt with a stolen car at the sea front last Thursday night, July 15.
"My officers were dealing with an assault and were called to an incident of rallying at the sea front in the early hours of the morning of July 15. However when police arrived at the scene the vehicle was on fire and a large crowd of about 30 to 40 youths started stoning the police vehicle," said Inspector Crawford.

The stolen car belonged to an Australian couple who had only been in the town for one day. They lost most of their possessions when both of their suitcases were torched along with the vehicle on the green.

"Having spoken to local young people who use the sea front I have to say they are disgusted by this act and our investigations would suggest that it was visitors to the town who were involved in this particular incident," said the chief.

"That’s the image that these people are getting of Ballycastle. That’s the image they will take away and I would call on the entire population of Moyle to condemn this act and assist us in bringing whoever was responsible to court. There was a large crowd at the sea front and surely someone must have seen something? It is incidents like this that can sour a person’s opinion of Ballycastle. Indeed I have had visitors say to me ‘I’ll never be back in Ballycastle’ and if tourists stay away then the whole community loses out," he added.

Another example of rising crime was on July 12 when a total of 12 cars were broken into at Silver Cliffs Caravan Park. This almost equalled the 15 thefts from April to July last year.
Inspector Crawford also suggested that animosity between local youths and those visiting from Belfast was at an all time high.

"There seems to be some sort of problem with visitors coming into the town and fighting with the young people from the area. We don’t know what the reason behind this tension is but we do not think it is sectarian. All it takes is for someone to involved in a fight to fall and hit their head and we will be dealing with a murder in the town," he said.
The heavy police presence could not be sustained for the entire summer and the Inspector has called for community support.

"A heavy police presence gives the town a bad image and it cannot go on indefinitely. At the minute we are fortunate in that we are able to get the extra resources but if something happens elsewhere in the province we could lose them.

"I am spending a lot of my budget on additional resources and we are using up the extra man hours which are needed for November and December when the number of burglaries is generally higher," he warned.

Inspector Crawford also called for increased community support and asked parents and licensees to take more responsibility.

""We can’t deal with this alone. It can’t all be just left to the police. We need public support," he concluded.

"There seems to be an element in the town continually drinking and determined to cause trouble. There are 14 and 15 year-olds roaming the streets till three and four in the morning and I would ask parents to take more responsibility for their children.

"Licensees also must take responsibility because they are feeding these people full of drink and selling carry outs then putting them out onto the street leaving us to deal with the aftermath," said the chief.

Ballycastle representative Cllr Michael Molloy also condemned the recent trouble and said: "Again I would condemn any acts of violence and vandalism at the sea front. But it is a sad reflection that it appears to be young people from outside Ballycastle who once again come in and spoil our town and the facilities that Moyle District Council have provided.

"It also highlights the problem of additional resources particularly in Ballycastle during the summer months and this is not the first time the DPP has raised this issue with the commander. Existing officers are not to blame but I think the PSNI needs to review its allocation of officers on the seaside towns along the North Antrim coast.

"When we reflect back maybe this would reinforce the need for Moyle District Council to provide something that could act as a distraction and may reduce wanton acts of vandalism at the sea front."

Inspector Crawford agreed that there needs to be some sort of outlet for teenagers and he called on the community to support the new sea front enhancement scheme.

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