Map: Northern Ireland's takeaway crime hotspots revealed
TAKEAWAYS and fast food outlets are increasingly the scenes of violent crime in the north with hundreds of attacks each year.
Almost half of the 2,300 crimes recorded at takeaways in the past three years were violent offences, police records obtained by The Irish News reveal.
Much of the problem has been attributed to crowds of revellers gathering in the early hours after nights out at pubs and nightclubs.
The detailed statistics also reveal the fast food locations in Northern Ireland where the most crimes have been reported.
McDonald's in Belfast city centre topped the list, with more than 200 offences recorded in or around the 24-hour outlet between 2014 and 2016.
The figure emerged just weeks after the stabbing of a young west Belfast boxer outside the restaurant.
Caoimhin Hynes (20) was queueing with his girlfriend to buy food after a night out when he was sliced across the face by a group of men wearing tracksuits.
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The SDLP's Paul McCusker – who takes part in overnight homelessness outreach work on the streets of central Belfast – has witnessed many violent incidents around takeaways over the years.
The city councillor, founder of Homeless Aware, expressed concern that the problem is getting worse – and warned of some people carrying knives onto the streets.
"You get crowds gathering outside, there's people drunk and pushing each other, and so it can escalate and go out of control," he said.
"Certainly over the last year there has been a big difference in terms of safety. I think it is getting worse.
"On a number of occasions I have had to withdraw groups going on the streets because I felt their safety was at risk."
Mr McCusker urged police to be more "pro-active", but added that fast-food outlets and their customers must also work to address the problem.
"Certainly there is a responsibility from McDonald's and other food outlets right across the city centre that if they are opening late, that people using these outlets are doing so in a responsible way."
He added: "We're concerned that people are carrying knives and carrying weapons. We need to say to people this behaviour won't be tolerated and anyone caught with any sort of weapon is dealt with seriously."
A total of 2,341 offences were recorded by police at or in the vicinity of fast-food outlets between 2014 and 2016, according to PSNI figures obtained through a freedom of information request.
Last year 820 crimes were recorded – an increase on the 763 reported in 2014 and 758 in 2015.
And the number of violent incidents increased from 322 and 305 in 2014 and 2015 respectively to 394 last year.
McDonald's outlets across the north make up half of the 30 takeaways where most crimes were recorded.
The Belfast city centre McDonald's on Donegall Place has been the scene of numerous incidents over the years.
In February last year a north Belfast man was found dead in a toilet cubicle after he had injected himself with heroin.
In 2015 a man in his twenties had part of his ear bitten off in an altercation at the fast-food chain.
And in 2001, David Finn (32) was stabbed to death after a fight broke out in the restaurant. Anthony Hagans, from Ross Street in Belfast's Divis area, was given a life sentence for the murder.
In a statement, McDonald's said: "We are unable to comment specifically on this data without further knowledge and details of the findings.
"The safety of our employees and customers is of the utmost importance and we take a zero-tolerance approach to any behaviour that puts this at risk.
"Whilst we have regrettably experienced incidents of anti-social behaviour inside our Donegall Place restaurant, we're fully aware of wider issues in the surrounding area and we, alongside other local businesses, are taking this matter seriously.
"Security guards and CCTV are in place at this restaurant and we continually work in close partnership with the local police to tackle this issue."
PSNI superintendent Simon Walls also said police are "committed to doing everything we can to tackle this problem".
"Each year, police officers attend incidents at fast-food outlets where a variety of offences have been committed," he said.
"Quite a number of these are alcohol-related, where individuals engage in criminal damage, public order, or other offences.
"We endeavour to respond to calls as and when they are received however the reality is there is a competing demand for police officers' time and during busy periods, calls have to be prioritised against threat, risk and harm.
"We would reassure local businesses that we are committed to doing everything we can to tackle this problem but this is not an issue policing alone can solve and we continue to work closely with those within the business community, our partners in the councils, agencies and community groups to address it."
:: Takeaway crime hotspots in Northern Ireland:
(Number of crimes recorded by PSNI in or around takeaway and fast food outlets from 2014 to 2016)
1. McDonald's, Donegall Place, Belfast – 201
2. KFC, Bradbury Place, Belfast – 45
3. Bradbury Place area, Belfast – 43
4. McDonald's, Meadows Shopping Centre, Portadown – 37
5. Monaghan Street area, Newry – 27
6. McDonald's, Pentagon Retail Park, Ballymena – 23
7. McDonald's, Bloomfield Shopping Centre, Bangor – 19
8. McDonald's, Connswater Link / Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast – 50
9. McDonald's, Riverside Park East, Coleraine – 18
10. KFC, Donegall Place, Belfast – 17
11. McDonald's, Sprucefield Shopping Centre, Lisburn – 19
12. McDonald's, Antrim Road, Newtownabbey – 17
13. McDonald's, Circular Road, Newtownards – 17
14. Scotch Street area, Downpatrick – 16
15. Andersonstown Road area, Belfast – 15
16. McDonald's, Kennedy Way, Belfast – 13
17. Burger King, Donegall Place, Belfast – 12
18. McDonald's, Edward Street, Craigavon – 11
19. Botanic Avenue area, Belfast – 10
20. Lisburn Road area, Belfast – 10
21. Shore Road area, Belfast – 10
22. McDonald's, Sweep Road, Cookstown – 10
23. McDonald's, Oaks Road, Dungannon – 10
24. Indian Ocean, The Promenade, Portstewart – 10
25. Subway, Dublin Road, Belfast – 9
26. Pizza Paradise, Lisburn Road, Belfast – 9
27. McDonald's, Rodgers Quay, Carrickfergus – 9
28. Domino's, Dunmore Street, Coleraine – 9
29. KFC, Bridge Street, Newry – 9
30. McDonald's, Longwood Road, Newtownabbey – 9
:: Types of crimes at takeaways and fast food outlets
(Number of crimes from 2014 to 2016 by offence type)
Violence against the person – 1,021
Criminal damage – 501
Theft – 370
Burglary – 218
Robbery – 71
Drug offences – 39
Sexual offences – 28
Public order offences – 21
Possession of weapons – 20
Miscellaneous – 52