Friday, January 27, 2006

Community Wardens: a “new and positive chapter”

THE launch of a community wardens scheme marks a “new and positive chapter” in the development of the Holyland area according to a statement on behalf of Belfast City Council.

The Council in partnership with the Police, the two Universities and local colleges launched an initiative to address ongoing anti-social behaviour in the area.

A team of 8 wardens will work in the area with 3 during the day and 5 at night. They are employed by Belfast City Council as part of a one year pilot. If successful the scheme will be extended for a further 3 years. The main aims are to: reduce anti-social behaviour; reduce the fear of crime; improve the quality of life; improve the local environment; increase engagement within the community, and improve community safety.

Officially launching the scheme at the City Church, the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Wallace Browne, said “the various agencies had been working together to address the joint problems of anti-social behaviour and the decline in community infrastructure and the local environment in the Holyland.” He expressed his confidence that the introduction of a “visible and dedicated service would have a real and tangible impact upon the issues confronting this area.”

The Mayor added that this marked one of many initiatives to include the Get Home Safe project and the Radiolink scheme, both of which would work alongside the warden scheme. This latest scheme in conjunction with others is an effort on behalf of the various organisations to tackle the problems that have faced the area in recent years, highlighted in particular by events that occurred last year as reported by The Gown. This unrest created bad PR for the area and for students, particularly highlighted by a BBC NI Spotlight programme.

He said that he firmly believed that the warden’s scheme would “contribute to [the] ongoing work to tackle anti-social behaviour and environmental decline.” He highlighted that it was “crucial that the wardens are regarded as a service for all in the area” and were there to “provide advice and reassurance to all those affected by these problems”. He urged everyone in the area to work together with the wardens and their partners to “bring about positive changes and harness the true potential” of the area.

It is understood that the team will be able to issue fines for offences such as littering. However, one could question whether the scheme is more of an admission that existing community police officers are not fulfilling their responsibilities.

Ben Preston, Students’ Union President said that “anything that can help student safety in the Holylands and help combat the problem of litter in the area should be welcomed.”


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