Dissident republicans in Londonderry claim they have been “patrolling” the streets of the Creggan area “confiscating” illegal fireworks.
Activists from the Saoradh group posted pictures of their activities on Facebook on Thursday evening, along with claims of illegal fireworks having “plagued the area” recently.
“Saoradh Doire based at Junior McDaid House have been inundated with complaints over the past number of weeks and have proactively worked to resolve this situation,” they said.
“After tonight’s public gathering with local residents, Saoradh have undertaken a decision to actively patrol the areas surrounding Creggan shops, Central Drive, Rinmore Drive, Cromore Gardens and Creggan Heights.”
In recent weeks Saoradh called for parents to be vigilant after fireworks were reportedly aimed at pedestrians, motorists and shops in the Creggan area.
Foyle MLA Gary Middleton said local residents would be “fearful” that vigilantes were brazenly taking the law into their own hands.
“This type of vigilantism is not appropriate. The PSNI are responsible for law and order,” he said.
“If people are involved in illegal fireworks then those people should be reported to the PSNI or through Crimestoppers. Saoradh is not an organisation that should be taking the law into their own hands.
“There will be people in their community who will be fearful of that kind of organisation patrolling the streets.”
The DUP representative added: “We have a meeting with senior [PSNI] officers next week and this will be on the agenda, to make sure they can get a grip on this issue. These people are trying to put fear into the community.”
A PSNI spokesman said people should be mindful of the distress that can be caused by the misuse of fireworks, but said it would caution anyone from taking the law into their own hands.
Chief Inspector Paul McCracken said: “We understand the effect that anti-social behaviour can have on the everyday lives of residents in the community.
“Some people may think it is ‘just fooling around’, but it can result in distress for the victim, or a criminal record for the perpetrator that can affect their travel, education and employment opportunities in the future.”
C/Inspt McCracken said anyone possessing, selling or handling fireworks without a licence can be fined up to £5,000.
“It is important to remember that fireworks are made from explosive material and if misused, can cause serious and life changing injuries. The law clearly states that fireworks – except indoor fireworks and sparklers – must be bought from reputable, licensed dealers who are required to keep sales records. Fireworks bought from other sources may not be British Standard approved thus presenting an even bigger risk of injury.”
C/Insp McCracken added: “The PSNI is responsible for law enforcement in Derry/Londonderry – we are here to protect local people and we are proud to serve them.
We would caution any individual or group against taking the law into their own hands. We will continue to prioritise the issues that matter most to local communities and would appeal to the community to continue to support us in our efforts to keep the area safe for everyone.
“If you have information about any sort of crime in the area, speak directly to your local neighbourhood officer by calling the non-emergency number 101. Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime.”