Large quantities of alcohol and suspected illegal drugs have been seized by police during a major crackdown on anti-social behaviour in the Banbridge area.
Operation Snapper, designed to target end-of-exam revellers intent on partying in public places, has been hailed a success by local police, who spoke with more than 200 young people at hotspot areas across Banbridge, Armagh and Craigavon on Friday, June 23.
Pictures of the seized alcohol - beer, cider, alcopops, spirits and Buckfast - plus suspected illegal drugs have been posted on the PSNI Banbridge Facebook page.
Commenting on the success of the operation, Chief Inspector Jon Burrows said: “This proactive operation was planned in recent weeks, identifying, with the help of the community, the locations that are often out of public sight where young people consume alcohol and sometimes drugs. These activities leave young people extremely vulnerable to crime and exploitation, exposing them to an increased risk of being the victim or perpetrator of crime.
“The behaviour of young people who have consumed alcohol and drugs also has a big impact on communities, increasing crime, fear and anti-social behaviour. Communities tell us this is their number one concern and we are listening to them.”
He continued: “Over the course of the day we spoke with over 230 children and we seized vast quantities of alcohol. Nearly 250 items were seized and these included many litres of the strongest alcoholic drinks commercially available. Alarmingly, we recovered Class A, B and C drugs, including 200 prescription tablets. Many of the ‘out of view’ places we found children in there were also bongs and other paraphernalia for consuming drugs. A common theme emerged that children were drinking alcohol earlier in the day so they would sober up by the time they got home to their parents or guardians. Another more familiar story was retold time and time again, parents thought their children where one place only for us to find them somewhere else.”
Revealing that a number of young people were referred to social services and others to the Alcohol Support Programme, CI Burrows added: “The follow up work with our partners will hopefully safeguard the children going forward and support their parents. Police officers all too often see the tragic impact of underage drinking and drug taking, the harm and suffering caused to families and communities. We were glad to be on the front foot yesterday, intervening before the anti-social behaviour or the distress calls began.
“I would appeal to all parents and guardians as we approach the school holidays to know where your children are, check and double check and talk to them about the dangers of alcohol and drugs. There are many facets to this problem but the most important interventions happen at home.”
As Operation Snapper took place across the district, local police also recorded a number of successes in the battle against illegal drugs, including seizures and arrests in Banbridge and Gilford.
Last week the PSNI had vowed to be out in force to crack down on the type of anti-social behaviour which has marred end-of-exam celebrations in the past. And Operation Snapper has been hailed a huge success.
A number of local people took to the PSNI Banbridge Facebook page to thank officers for their efforts.
Many people praised the police for their “brilliant work”, while others put up posts urging them to “keep up the good work”.
One woman posted: “It’s good to know that you are making such a positive impact in our community”, while another added: “Great work! I hope the parents involved take this opportunity to change the direction their kids could be going.”
Meanwhile, in a hard-hitting video also posted on the PSNI Banbridge page, Gareth Hampton, a consultant at Craigavon A&E, warned about the dangers of drink and drugs.
“Most young people set out to drink, get blocked, hang around with their mates and have a good time. But unfortunately lots of them end up seeing me. Cold, lonely and on their own. No mates and covered in their own vomit and their own pee. Even worse, some people combine drugs and alcohol, whether it is prescription or legal highs, they end up really sick. And the worst part of my job is sitting down with their friends and family and telling them, unfortunately, they have died because of what they have taken.
“Please don’t make me have another conversation with a family member. Take care of yourselves.”
Police said they set up Operation Snapper because each year they are in undated “with calls about drunk teenagers fighting, falling in front of cars, engaging in serious anti-social behaviour, putting fear into the elderly and vulnerable, and generally being a bit of a pain in the backside”.