Northern Ireland news

Children as young as 11 arranging fights on social media, police warn

Hundreds of children, as young as 11, are arranging fights on social media, police have said

CHILDREN as young as 11 are arranging fights on social media, a police letter to schools has revealed.

Groups of up to 150 young people are engaging in anti-social behaviour at parks and interface areas across Belfast.

Parents have been told there are also incidents of underage drinking and drug-taking.

Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT) officers from the PSNI detailed the offences in a letter to parents of all Belfast schoolchildren.

Police have previously warned that those involved in fighting are risking criminal records.

This month, a patrol came across a crowd on the Girdwood Community Hub site in north Belfast. It is understood a fight had been arranged, however several young people ran off. Officers took details of 10 youths whose parents were informed.

Over the same period, officers dealt with crowds in Woodvale Park and seized alcohol. Another gathering at Carlisle Circus was broken up.

Now, constables Jack McDonald and Brian Carroll from Botanic NPT have written to parents.

In the letter the officers said that, over the last few years, "groups of up to 150 young people have been meeting at various public parks and interface areas across Belfast to engage in anti-social behaviour and in particular, arranged fights".

"Those attending are aged between 11 and 18, male and female," they wrote.

"Numerous reports and complaints have been made about these youths and their behaviour to police from local residents and community workers.

"The behaviour includes fighting (arranged), underage drinking, drug-taking, noise nuisance, bottle smashing, and damage to property, threatening behaviour towards local residents and community workers, assaults, thefts, possession of offensive weapons and riotous behaviour towards police attending."

Incidents had increased in frequency over the last year, they added, as had the number of youths gathering in several areas.

"Police have spoken to a number of youths involved and reports have been made to the PSNI Youth Diversion Team. Police have made use of social media to warn about this behaviour, as have local community groups across Belfast but as yet to no avail."

The officers said the letter was to make all parents directly aware of these incidents and police concerns.

"Please ensure you speak with your child about this and make all reasonable efforts to ensure your child is not one of those attending in future," they added.

"If you or your child have information on these events, which are being arranged via social media between those involved, please contact local police directly or NPT officers."

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