THE chairman of a Limerick joint policing committee has said the town of Newcastle West was like a ‘war zone’ last night as gangs of youths caused destruction and a person was filmed firing what appeared to be fireworks from a gun.
Fine Gael councillor Adam Tesky said extra Gardaí were urgently needed to deal with roaming gangs of youths in West Limerick towns and villages, and that the Halloween-night scenes were like the conflict in Beirut.
The violent scenes were shared across social media with one video showing a person who appeared to be discharging fireworks from what is believed to be a repeater rifle.
Gangs of youths were also filmed roaming through the streets and throwing wheelie bins and other missiles at cars. Mobile phone video footage also showed a group of people tipping over a parked car.
Stating that the town was like a war zone, Cllr Teskey added: “It was like a scene from Beirut, it was frightening stuff, they caught a car below by the river and threw it up on its side.
“They were throwing rubbish bins at windscreens of cars. Anything they could find they were throwing at cars,” he said.
“What has come to the surface in our county towns and villages is absolutely nothing but the worst sort of vandalism imaginable. This is the sort of stuff you would watch on the news in other countries. I might have to call a special meeting of the JPC because of the way things are going.”
Cllr Tesky said there are not enough Gardaí in west Limerick to effectively deal with gangs of youths who have been causing mayhem in towns and villages including Newcastle West and Askeaton.
“People feel completely let down, that this act of criminal behaviour seems to be manifesting into society in a huge way and it seems the systems that are in place currently to deal with juveniles is letting us down. The Garda Juvenile Liaison Officer (JLO) system whereby people under the age of 18 are referred needs to be overhauled.
“It is something that I have raised with Justice Minister Helen McEntee when she was in our area recently. I told her that we have a huge problem with juveniles in terms of how we police them and that the system is failing them and is failing us.
Cllr Tesky said that people living in Newcastle West and other parts of the county are “sick of it” and are demanding change.
He said Garda resources were stretched on Halloween night as officers from the area were dispatched to investigate a fatal road traffic collision in which a young local mother was killed and two young children and two men were hospitalised.
He suggested one possible way to mitigate the problem was to hit the parents of out-of-control youngsters in their pockets.
“If they are found to have being involved in any unlawful activity, their parents should be fined because of this hooliganism and blackguarding.”
“Parents should know what their children are doing, where they at night, and they should also be held responsible, as they play a huge part in this.
Asked for comment, a Garda spokesman replied: “Gardaí are investigating an incident of criminal damage where a car was damaged on October 31 at 7.35pm in Newcastle West.
“Gardaí attended an incident where a group of youths were reportedly setting off fireworks in the Square, Newcastle West at 6.40pm but the group was gone on the arrival of Gardaí.
“Gardaí were called to attend an incident on Maiden Street, Newcastle West at 7.20pm where a group of youths was reportedly letting off fireworks. They were gone on arrival.
” No arrests have been made and investigations are ongoing,” he added.