A small group of teenagers prowling the streets of Ratoath on evenings and weekends are causing hovoc for local residents.
Boys and girls, some as young as 12 and up to 16 years old are involved in “aggressive and sustained anti social behaviour,” leading to calls for more garda resources for the area.
One local resident who was too fearful to be named said the youngsters often congregate at his estate on weekend nights drinking and smashing bottles, listening to blaring loud music and robbing wheelie bins.”
“Every Saturday night, they just appear. It is getting out of hand,” he said.
A small group of about 30 boys and girls ranging from 12 to 16-years-of-age are those creating problems.
“They are abusive to residents, drinking, being noisy and showing no respect to anyone when they are chastised,” said Cllr Nick Killian.
“They move around the estates and people using the Riverside Walk feel intimidated by them,” he said.
Cllr Killian called for a greater garda presence in the area and for parents to be aware of where their children are and what they are doing.
“I saw one parent leaving her daughter off to join this group one evening.”
“I have met with our Community Gardai, written to our Superintendent and requested greater Garda presence in the village and in particular foot patrols like we had last summer.
“Much has been done over the years by Foroige and Ratoath Youth Club to try and attract some of these teenagers, but the young people involved in the anti-social behavior will not join these clubs.
“We have many many clubs and associations in Ratoath where they could get involved. So the argument I get of ‘there’s nothing to do in Ratoath’ is out of sync as to what’s happening.
“Parental involvement with some of the teenagers taking part in this behaviour is non existent. Do parents not ask questions as to where the sons and daughters are going?”
“To be quite clear this is only a tiny minority of our total younger population who in general go about their daily life in an exemplary manner,” Cllr Killian said.
Ratoath resident and local election candidate, Deirdre Geraghty Smith said the youths were prowling the streets in the evenings and weekends, targeting homes and individuals by throwing missiles at cars and property; ‘keying’ cars and damaging property, and engaging in nuisance door knocking, as well as aggressive and intimidatory behaviour.
“Many young children and families are fearful to be out on the streets in the evening at weekends, with the threat of intimidation from these gangs of individuals. I have been a victim of this myself, with my own car and that of my neighbours’ being keyed recently and suffering extensive damage.”
She called for greater Garda resourcing to be provided to county Meath as a matter of urgency.
“The Ashbourne Garda district has a similar population to that of Westmeath and yet it has less than half the number of Gardaí in situ.
“People have a right to feel safe in their homes and in their communities. The State has a role to play in ensuring this. We need a visible Garda presence on the ground and the appropriate resources put behind them to tackle this issue head on.”
Cllr Damien O’Reilly said parents need to talk to their children and to encourage them to get involved with some of the fantastic facilities in Ratoath including the GAA and soccer clubs, boxing club and scouts.
Supt Fergus O’Dwyer of Ashbourne said that they deploy gardai to Ratoath whenever they can, particularly when school is finishing and Friday and Saturday nights when the problems are worse.
He said they are putting more emphasis on foot patrols in Ratoath.