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Fears for safety and for health in lower Falls

Residents of local street of fear speak out

By Francesca Ryan

A lower Falls street is being held to ransom by a gang of teenagers who are terrifying residents on a daily basis.

This week a number of people living in Balkan Street came together to open up to the Andersonstown News about their experiences and their fear of not just the teenage gang, but their mothers who let them run riot in the street.

So bad is the havoc caused by the mob that at least one resident is on medication and has been ordered by her doctor to take a break from the street or her health will suffer further. Others fear that a man whose home is continually targeted on an almost daily basis will drop dead from the pressure of chasing the gang as he tries to defend his home.

“We are being crucified down here every day, we are just tortured,” said one lady who was shaking as she spoke.  “Windows have been smashed by these boys, they climb up on to the roofs of the houses, they shout at you in the street.  That’s on top of stealing cars and motorbikes and damaging property.

“It’s terrible, I’m ready for a nervous breakdown. My doctor told me to take a break and has giving me something to calm my nerves, all because of these people.”

The lady says she is afraid to leave the house for fear of it being damaged but also in case she would meet the mother of the gang’s ringleader.

“We can’t go out as a couple because someone has to be in the house at all times to guard against all this trouble,” she explained.  “There are two fellas in particular behind it, the whole street is terrified of them, everyone in the district knows who they are. I’m scared of the mother too because she would happily confront you and eff and blind at you, she terrifies me.  Nobody can control these fellas and they are getting worse.

“People are afraid to call in and see me in case they are targeted,” she added.  “When I see my neighbours at Mass, they will stop and ask me how I am, but they are too afraid to come to my door because they don’t want to be the next in line for this abuse.”

One family says they have been  regularly documenting everything that has happened and have already filled one incident book since May.

“We have been everywhere for help but it hasn’t stopped,” said another resident.  “We are all tortured but particularly this poor couple, the husband is constantly chasing these people away from the house and one day he will drop dead over the head of these fellas. The whole street can see what is happening here 24/7 but people are afraid to come out in case they get it next.  This young fella stands at his door smoking and drinking WKD while his mother is in the house, it’s disgraceful.”

Another resident said the entire district is no longer a place where she would want her children or grandchildren to live.

“People are fighting to get out of Balkan Street and McDonnell Street,” she said.  “I’d have a fit if my children told me they were moving back to the lower Falls.  The district is away to the dogs and there is no coming back.”

The sentiment was echoed by all the residents who spoke to us.

“There have always been hoods and gluesniffers, even through the Troubles,” said another lady, “but sadly every single year it’s getting worse.”

Robert McClenaghan from the Falls Residents’ Association called on the statutory agencies to do their bit to help the residents.

“We support these residents,” he said.  “Anti-social behaviour is not a new thing and it doesn’t just affect the Falls, but we have a hardcore of anti-social elements that need to be separated and for that to happen we need the Housing Executive, the PSNI, Social Services and Belfast City Council all on board to help this stop.”

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