NEW figures provided by Larne Council have revealed the shocking extent of damage caused by vandalism in the borough’s play parks and open spaces over the past 16 months.
In the past two years, the local authority has set aside £75,000 out of its capital expenditure budget to cover the cost of replacing damaged equipment.
And the council, frustrated at the seemingly never-ending tide of destruction, has now resolved to take measures to put a stop to this drain on ratepayers’ wallets.
By far the most extensive damage inflicted since April 2011 has been in Carnlough, where the council has had to fork out over £22,000 – the majority of it at Beachlands play park.
The cost of repairs to the park last year were £13,000, while this year to date £3,500 has been spent at the site. As a result of the damage, the council took the decision to temporarily close the facility.
South Bay playground in the village also suffered damage to the tune of £7,000, while turf damage caused by quad bikes and scramblers amounted to costs of £1,000.
Further damage was caused at Glenlough multi use games area (MUGA), where vandals are said to have used floodlights for target practice.
The council has had to erect protective guards to cover the lights, but bulbs are still being shattered due to stones being thrown. Vandals have also tried to set an area on fire and a number of items have been stolen.
The replacement of equipment in Glenarm amounted to £2,300, while it cost about £2,500 to replace a shelter that had been destroyed by fire. Safety surface damage was £500.
Damage to a climbing frame and swings in Ballygally cost ratepayers £2,500, while repairs to a rope bridge, swings, safety surfacing and other equipment in Drains Bay resulted in costs of £3,200.
Meanwhile in Larne, Bardic Drive had a repair bill totalling £4,500 after vandals damaged a slide, zip line, fencing, gates and signage.
Craigyhill play park was also closed earlier this year after a new slide was destroyed, costing £1,000 to repair. A further £1,200 was spent at Ferris Park, £200 at Dixon Park, £2,000 at Glynn and £100 at Magheramorne.
In Ballycarry, the cost of repairs was £2,000, and Islandmagee was also hit hard with damages amounting to £2,300.
In a bid to tackle this sea of vandalism, the council is to hold regular meetings with police to encourage increased patrols of the worst-hit areas. It will also look at the possibility of installing CCTV, integrated lighting and ultra sound equipment.
Community groups are also being encouraged to take more ownership of play areas and to undertake a series a workshops to meet with local people and discuss what can be done.
Finally, the council will consider employing a Park Ranger or security company to operate out of hours surveillance.