Police patrols stepped up in Downpatrick following spate of arson attacks
FIRE crews attending an arson attack on a minibus in Downpatrick came under "sustained attack" as they tackled the blaze.
Police have promised extra weekend patrols in the Flying Horse and Model Farm estates amid calls for those responsible for a spate of destructive fires to stop.
According to the PSNI, a Renault Clio was set on fire at around 10pm on Thursday close to the Model Farm Shopping Complex.The car was left burnt out and police say they are treating the incident as arson.
Soon afterwards, a minibus belonging to the Education Authority was also burnt out while parked in the grounds of the Ballymote leisure centre on Glebetown Drive.
Fire crews dealing with the blaze on came under "sustained attack from youths throwing bricks and stones", police said.
Inspector Trevor Campbell condemned the anti-social behaviour.
“These firefighters had been carrying out their duty and serving our local community in order to protect property, prevent danger to the public and reduce any further risk of injury – this was completely unacceptable," he said.
"In light of these recent incidents of public disorder, I am appealing to those involved to keep a cool head and think about the consequences of your actions which could lead to a criminal record."
SDLP MLA Colin McGrath said the attacks were a "disgrace" and he appealed to those involved to stop.
"The youths involved in this are now destroying the very resources that are provided to help them and to ensure that young people get more opportunities – it is totally unfair and unacceptable," he said.
"Quite often young people travel into this area and contribute to the anti-social behaviour and that is not fair on local residents who work hard to maintain their area and have a sense of community."
The South Down representative said he had also spoken to officials from Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, who he said "are rarely in the area and the resulting litter and debris is used by these young people to set fires".