Northern Ireland's underage drinking hotspots revealed
POLICE are confiscating bottles and cans of alcohol from children at a rate of one nearly every single hour.
The scale of underage drinking taking place across the north is laid bare in PSNI records obtained by The Irish News.
Officers have seized alcohol from minors more than 7,500 times in the past five years – with nearly 37,000 bottles and cans confiscated.
In one alarming case a 10-year-old boy in west Belfast had 30 ciders confiscated by police.
Areas of south and west Belfast as well as counties Down and Tyrone are among Northern Ireland's main hotspots for underage drinking.
Overall more than 17,400 bottles and cans of beer, 8,000 ciders, over 5,800 alcopops and 1,700 bottles of wine have been seized from minors since 2011.
Among those who had alcohol seized were three 10-year-olds, two children aged 11 and six 12-year-olds.
They included a 10-year-old boy in Holywood, Co Down, and another child aged 10 in Dungannon town centre, Co Tyrone.
In total the PSNI has confiscated more than 36,880 alcohol items from children and teenagers aged under 18 between 2011 and 2015.
It is the equivalent of police confiscating more than one item alcohol from children every 71 minutes.
However, both the number of confiscations and amounts of alcohol seized have fallen year-on-year.
There were more than 2,400 confiscations in 2011 compared to more than 700 in 2015.
Almost 70 per cent of the alcohol was seized from boys, according to the latest detailed figures uncovered through a freedom of information request.
West Belfast had the largest amount of alcohol confiscated with more than 6,200 bottles and cans seized.
On average police seized around nine items every time they confiscated alcohol from children in west Belfast.
Its upper Grosvenor Road area also emerged as the north's biggest underage drinking hotspot with more than 2,000 items confiscated by police.
It's understood the confiscation hotspots in these inner city areas are due to high numbers of young people congregating at popular events such as music concerts.
The Down policing area meanwhile had the most confiscations with more than 900 recorded and around 2,500 bottles and cans seized.
Last year The Irish News revealed the PSNI is making plans to reintroduce sting operations where teenagers test whether pubs and off-licences will sell them alcohol.
Police shelved the scheme in 2012 following concerns from youth organisations about the welfare of children involved.
But it emerged in March that police have prepared an 'action plan' to relaunch the operation in a bid to combat underage drinking.
Several high-profile incidents in recent years have continued to raise concerns about underage drinking.
Intoxicated girls as young as 13 were said to have been among the revellers during St Patrick's Day last year in south Belfast's Holylands area.
The mainly student area made headlines last year after a PSNI officer injured when bottles were thrown at police following disturbances as hundreds gathered over the St Patrick's holiday period.
In 2014 more than 100 young people including many aged under 16 were treated for the effects of alcohol and drugs outside Belfast's Odyssey Arena during a DJ Hardwell performance.
In the same year police also warned that someone could have died when dozens of young people gathered at a golf course in Strabane, Co Tyrone, for an outdoor St Patrick's Day party organised on social media.
Underage drinking hotspots
(Quantity of alcohol confiscated by PSNI from under-18s by policing area, 2011-15)
1. Upper Grosvenor Road, west Belfast - 2,026
2. Central area, south Belfast - 1,729
3. Lower Grosvenor Road, west Belfast - 1,541
4. Ards area - 1,527
5. Greater Andersonstown, west Belfast - 1,423
6. Laganbank, south Belfast - 1,389
7. Upper Falls, west Belfast - 1,246
8. Inner Bangor - 1,245
9. Newcastle, Co Down - 1,142
10. Balmoral, south Belfast - 1,079
11. Fountain/city centre, Derry - 891
12. Downpatrick, Co Down - 857
13. Carrickfergus - 800
14. Cookstown, Co Tyrone - 799
15. Pottinger, east Belfast - 796
16. Castlereagh - 787
17. Comber, Co Down - 760
18. Ballymena, Co Antrim - 724
19. Dunmurry, Lisburn - 659
20. Portrush/Portstewart - 651
21. Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh - 596
22. Lurgan, Co Armagh - 584
23. Coleraine, Co Derry - 518
24. Antrim Line, Newtownabbey - 516
25. Ards Penninsula - 445
26. Ballyclare, Newtownabbey - 435
27. Ebrington/Newbuildings, Derry - 424
28. Shantallow, Derry - 417
29. Crumlin, Co Antrim - 365
30. Tonagh/Old Warren area, Lisburn - 331