Favourable findings from the park trial

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A summary of the findings following the 24 hour trial opening of Solitude Park have been released with a number of positive conclusions reported.

The overall picture saw reports of a drop in anti-social behaviour, youth workers and community safety wardens better able to engage with young people and no significant increase in problems such as vandalism.

The PSNI reported that incidents of anti-social behaviour during the trial opening hours in August and September 2014, were down on the same period in 2013.

They went on to point out that while negative perceptions by local residents of young people using the park was a factor that can contribute to reports of anti-social behaviour, it was impossible to assess if the trial opening hours had impacted on these perceptions.

Detached youth workers also reported benefits from the trial opening hours.

They said that the prolonged hours meant they were better able to access the Park to engage with young people and to encourage them to use the SELB drop-in centre.

The detached youth work has continued since the park opening hours reverted back and this work will be on-going for the remainder of 2014/15.

Community Safety Wardens went on to reiterate the findings of the detached youth workers saying that the benefit of being able to enter Solitude Park during the extended hours allowed them to engage with the young people, this time in terms of their personal safety.

When the safety wardens were unable to access the park, they said it was difficult to monitor potential anti-social behaviour from the boundary of the park due to the lack of lighting.

They did point out however that often young people were using the park simply to meet and talk, and that usage of the park was often weather-dependent.

Meanwhile park wardens reported no significant increase in vandalism or littering but added that as these tend to ebb and flow it can be difficult to be exact.

The wardens also noted that young people moved more freely through the park and tended not to stay in the park as long, due to the fact they were not being asked to leave at a specific time.

At the time of the trial, many locals had expressed fears of anti-social behaviour and raised concerns that groups of young people might gather to drink there creating problems such as littering and vandalism, which would result in the park being destroyed.