“Community engagement with young people is essential”

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A local elected official expressed his hope for a “long-term” solution to the traffic jams in the Colin district.

It comes after Translink suspended services in the area due to a series of attacks on Tuesday night.

Glider and Metro bus services were halted at the Michael Ferguson Roundabout after two buses were damaged by rocks thrown from a construction park on Stewartstown Road.

This is the third time that Translink vehicles have been attacked in the region in as many weeks.

Sinn Féin local councilor Danny Baker was among community and political representatives who engaged with young people on the night to try to quell the attacks.

He said the large youth population in the Colin area, as well as its position at the end of a glider route, saw crowds of more than 100 young people gathering in the surrounding area.

Youth workers have worked diligently to ensure young people are kept out of trouble and can enjoy the facilities in the area.

Cllr Baker said those involved in last night’s attacks were under five and believed to be between 10 and 13 years old.

“Not all kids want to go to centers, and that’s fair enough, but when you have a big team, sometimes one, two or maybe four get separated and do something negative,” he said. he declares.

“That’s exactly what happened last night. About three or four broke off and started throwing rocks from the new park, and it wasn’t just on the buses. The equipment was there and I criticized that the new park wasn’t finished. You really have to do it, it’s a construction site. It does not excuse those who collect the stones, but it does not help when you have a construction site right in front of an area populated by families.

He added: “Last night the buses were stopped, and rightly so, and we got on and gave our assurances and spoke to our young people.”

He said community representatives spoke to young people who may have been involved and warned them of the dangers of attacking buses.

“First it’s a risk to life, then it’s a risk to their future through potential criminal records, and then we talked to them about the impact on the community.

“That education has to fit in with some of them. In the future, I think we can manage all of that. I know it’s very frustrating for Translink and the unions, but it’s not orchestrated and they are not targeted because there were also cars hitting with stones.

“My personal view is that we’re not at a stage where the service needs to be taken down because I don’t think there’s anything sinister behind it.”

He continued: As youth workers and community representatives we need to engage with them, and when they cross the line there is a job here for the PSNI to be more proactive. They have to step foot in the street and they have to go out and engage and teach the consequences of when they knock on the door. I would like to see more engagement from them rather than riding in the vehicles, which does nothing – it actually creates another target for young people.”

Cllr Baker said more funding and resources are needed to engage children who do not use traditional youth centres.

“Not every child wants to go to a youth center, but we have a state-of-the-art recreation center and other facilities. We need to maximize everything we have available to us and think long-term” , did he declare.

A PSNI spokesman said: “Investigations are ongoing into this incident and we encourage anyone with information or dash cam footage to contact police on 101 quoting reference 1591 15/02 /22.”

A Translink spokesperson said: “The safety of our customers, staff and the general public is our top priority at all times. We have zero tolerance for attacks on our vehicles and we work closely with the PSNI, the community and elected officials to reduce and prevent acts of vandalism and anti-social behavior.

“We run a cash rewards scheme offering up to £1,000 to any member of the public who witnesses an incident and is willing to give evidence in court, resulting in a conviction.”

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