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Holylands: Belfast student area's rowdiest streets revealed

MORE than 30,000 alcohol units have been confiscated in south Belfast's Holylands by council officials over the past three years.

And complaints of anti-social behaviour in the mainly student area topped 1,800 over the same period.

The Holylands streets attracting the most complaints are revealed in records obtained by The Irish News.

It comes amid concerns as crowds of young people are again expected to descend on the area for St Patrick's Day.

Last year an officer was injured as bottles were thrown at police during disturbances as hundreds gathered over the holiday period. Eleven arrests were made in the Holylands and city centre.

Permanent Holylands residents have called for greater penalties against unruly and drunken students.

But authorities insist they are stepping up efforts to tackle problems – and have warned young people to stay away.

Ray Farley of the Belfast Holylands Regeneration Association fears the area will be "turned into an on-street drinking festival".

"There is an attitude from authorities that they don't want to prosecute these people because we don't want to affect their future careers – but you have to take a more robust line," he said.

"The problem is the authorities say they are managing the situation, but it's not management folks want – they want it stopped."

The figures from 2014 to November 2016 were uncovered by The Irish News through a freedom of information request.

Belfast City Council estimated that 31,749 units of alcohol were seized over the period – the equivalent of around 15,000 cans of beer.

Over the same period the council received 1,846 complaints of anti-social behaviour.

The complaints include drunken behaviour, verbal abuse, 'groups and gangs gathering', graffiti, and noise caused by partying, loud music and shouting.

Jerusalem Street had the most complaints with 268, followed by Rugby Avenue with 238 and Agincourt Avenue on 176.

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In its street-by-street breakdown, the council declined to disclose the specific figure for areas that had seven or fewer complaints in a single year.

Last year it emerged that only nine people in the wider university area were fined by the council for street drinking in the 12 months to September 2016.

Belfast City Council said it plans an increased Holylands presence this year with staff working to prevent bus loads of people coming into the area.

A spokesman said there would be a "significantly higher level of staff resource" and they "will operate in the area for a longer period of time".

"The proactive communication with private hire coach/bus companies and supporting checks on Friday March 17 is in response to feedback that large numbers of those in the Holylands area in 2016 were from outside Belfast," he said.

"Belfast City Council wants people to safely and lawfully enjoy St Patrick's Day, but strongly encourages people to stay out of the Holylands area."

Jerusalem Street, Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell

The PSNI said it is working with the council, universities, colleges and schools to discourage young people and students from descending on the Holylands.

Superintendent Melanie Jones said: "We are planning joint enforcement patrols with Belfast City Council's anti-social behaviour officers to seize alcohol from anyone drinking in the street and to minimise anti-social behaviour in general."

She urged parents and guardians to know where their children are, and to warn them of the dangers and impact of underage drinking.

"Our message to the public is to come and enjoy all that Belfast has to offer – but to do so safely. Any unruly behaviour affecting the enjoyment of the majority, caused by people who celebrate to excess, will not be tolerated," she said.

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