A gang of young people allegedly calling themselves the BT62s is among those terrorising residents in parts of Portadown, a local councillor has said.
The gang, named after the area’s postcode, is understood to be the same one which a residents’ group claim was “armed with knives and hockey sticks” on Friday night.
Residents reported seeing approximately 20-25 hooded young people dressed in dark clothing running down Corcrain Drive towards the woodlands area just before 11pm.
Police confirmed they carried out extensive checks but found nothing.
DUP councillor Darryn Causby, who also manages the YMCA in Jervis Street, said that while he does not know a lot of detail about the gang, “some of the young people who come to the YMCA tell us they are terrified of them”.
He said there has apparently been arranged fights and that on Saturday at the ‘Red Bridge’ over the Northway, the gang had allegedly come over with weapons and chased some young people, with a parent claiming her 13-year-old daughter had been trailed to the ground.
He added: “We know there was an issue in Brownstown Park at the end of summer when the supposed same gang of young people were involved in an issue when they attempted to rob a 10-year-old boy. The older boys had hoods, masks and bats.
“The police took two of the boys home. There is a real sense that these young people are roaming the town and doing what they like.”
He also condemned the actions of another large group of young people who have been been engaged in drinking, possible drug-taking and antisocial activity in an area called the ‘alley’ on Saturday nights, close to Jervis Street and Alexandra Gardens.
He said residents had had roofs climbed on, cars rolled on and bins thrown over gardens as well as doors kicked and windows egged.
“We have older residents who have lived in Jervis Street most, if not all of their lives, who are terrified, and across in Alexandra Gardens it’s the same,” he said.
“The young people tend to move from location to location, so this is just another spot. They are coming from all over the places.
“Not this Saturday, but the Saturday before, police brought two teenage girls home to Tandragee, and there were 23 stop and searches carried out by the PSNI, which is an enormous figure.”
He said the problem had existed for years with the group alternating between areas such as the River Bann, Corcrain woodland and Brownstown Park.
And he voiced his concern that someone was going to be killed or seriously injured.
He said YMCA staff had been out engaging with the young people, some of whom attend the centre on other nights, but that the attitude seemed to be that Saturday night was their drinking night.
“I am concerned it is going to get out of hand and someone is going to get killed or seriously injured,” he said.
And he rejected the explanation that there was nothing for young people to do, pointing out that there are a number of youth clubs right across the town.
He added: “If parents are dropping young people in to Portadown, the question they should be asking themselves is ‘what’s in Jervis Street at 4pm or 5pm in the afternoon, other than a back alley’.
“And I would say to young people, be aware that the actions you take have consequences, Getting drunk on a roof could have a life-changing consequence. Please think about your safety and your well-being.”
In a post on Facebook on Saturday, police said they were aware of groups causing a nuisance in the Jervis Street area over the past number of weekends.
“The reports of alcohol and drug use in the area are quite concerning, when some of the oldest present are 13 and 14.
“Most of the ones we spoke to weren’t from the town,” they added.