A former Armagh mayor has spoken of his shock and anger after watching members of the public and security staff being subjected to “threatening and foul language” at the Mall West Shopping Centre.
And Alderman Gareth Wilson has already spoken to senior police officers and called for a more visible presence in the city centre after Saturday’s incidents.
The DUP representative had been at the Mall Shopping Centre collecting for Marie Curie Cancer Care and subsequently has spoken of his concerns at the “scenes of anti-social behaviour” which he saw.
He said the unacceptable language and behaviour directed at security staff and public – witnessed as he collected for the charity alongside his son over the course of a number of hours – came “mostly from youths”.
Said Alderman Wilson: “There certainly appears to be a growing problem with groups of younger people, including younger children, marauding around the city and revisiting the shopping centre on multiple occasions in relatively short periods of time.
“What was a concern was the fact that certain groups of youths were verbally abusing security staff and members of the public with threatening and foul language.
“A number of members of the public stopped with me to discuss how unhappy they were with the situation and the regularity with which such incidents occur.”
The councillor said he attended a meeting today (Tuesday) with the PSNI, the Mall West Shopping Centre security operators and other business owners in the vicinity to discuss these concerns in more detail.
“It was a very useful exchange of views,” said Alderman Wilson afterwards. “It was very useful to hear the views of members of the business community who contribute so heavily to the life of the city.
“There is certainly a general concern as to this culture of antisocial behaviour. It would be great to see a reduction in these incidents as it is unacceptable for shoppers, business owners and security staff to feel uneasy whilst shopping or doing their jobs in the city.
“I took the opportunity to explain to the local PSNI representatives the need for a much greater presence in and around these sites at key times, to both act as a deterrent and to explain to those involved how concerning their behaviour is.
“There is very much a need for parental intervention as it is clear parents are unaware of the behaviour of the kids involved and their whereabouts.
“Hopefully some action can be taken to reduce this problem for the benefit of everyone in Armagh City.”