Police are to patrol Larne Town Park this weekend in response to complaints of crowds of youths gathering to drink and fight.
A robust PSNI response was demanded by elected representatives after the scenic location had to be cleared of glass and other debris before a junior Parkrun could proceed on Sunday past.
Councillor Mark McKinty said a number of walkers and dog owners were greeted by ‘80 - 100’ young people drinking in the park.
“Parents of children involved in the junior Parkrun had to arrive early in order to clean up broken glass and rubbish. There was also evidence of damage to sapling trees and some of the park fixtures,” said Mr McKinty
The UUP representative added: “I am seeking answers from the police as this presents a significant number of public safety issues: potential underage drink and drug use; anti-social behaviour (density of gathering); vandalism; risk to human and pet welfare due to broken glass.”
East Antrim DUP MLA Gordon Lyons was also contacted by concerned residents.
He said: “Youths were reported to be fighting and smashing bottles in the park. This anti-social behaviour is just the latest incident in the wider East Antrim area and cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.
“Their actions are causing real distress to local people and the PSNI must demonstrate that this unacceptable behaviour will be met with a tough response.”
Police confirmed they received reports of a group of young people gathering in the Town Park area on Saturday evening.
Superintendent Darrin Jones said: “Police responded to these reports and moved the group from the area on a number of occasions. Officers also searched several members of the group under Misuse of Drugs legislation.
“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. Local Neighbourhood officers will be patrolling the area this coming weekend as reassurance for local residents.
“We are always here to listen to all community concerns. The support of local people, community and voluntary representatives, and particularly the parents of those youths frequenting the area, are essential ingredients to help improve the quality of life for the local residents of Larne.”
He added the PSNI are working collaboratively with the Policing and Community Safety Partnership and BYTES group in an attempt to divert young people away from anti-social behaviour.
“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.
“Police will deal with any offending behaviour in a robust manner, and where action does not appear to be taken at the time for tactical or operational reasons, evidence is being gathered which is then used to identify those involved. We continue to gather evidence, and those suspected that being involved may find they will be getting a knock at the door at some stage.
“If anyone in the area is concerned about any sort of criminal activity, please contact officers in Larne on 101 and let us know so that we can respond appropriately.”