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Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK
Moves to tackle street assaults
Police on night patrol in Londonderry
Most assaults happen after pubs close their doors

Street crime is a major cause for concern in Londonderry - Northern Ireland's second largest city.

The BBC has learned that, on average, five people are assaulted in the city every day. That's the startling statistic in a new internal police report.


If young people are confronted with potential trouble I would urge them to put their hands in their pockets and walk away

Supt Dawson Cotton
It shows that over a 12 month period, up to April this year, there were 1,900 assaults - 800 of those were in the city centre and seven out of 10 victims were aged between 18 and 35.

Of those attacked 75% were male.

The police stress the problem with personal assaults is not confined to the city with many attacks happening daily throughout the UK and in the Republic every day.

Family devastated

Every week in Derry, thousands of people go out and have a great night and encounter no problem. But others are not so lucky.

The father of one man - who did not want to be identified - said an attack on his son had seriously injured him and devastated the entire family circle.

"My son received one single blow to the head. He suffered brain damage, his speech has been affected and his short term memory is problematic.

"He has to be helped putting on his clothes."

The young man had a promising career ahead but that all changed after the assault.

The attacks usually take place around pubs and clubs after closing time.

The injured man's father added: "It does make me very angry you know. I don't know why they blame it on drink and drugs, they blame it on lots of things.

Alcohol

"I think it's up to the individual not to take these things if that is what's causing the problems.

"I don't think they should be allowed to consume such amounts of alcohol if it affects their brain and how they manage themselves."

One senior policeman in the city said a range of groups must be involved in tackling the problem.

Superintendent Dawson Cotton added: "We in the police are working with pub owners, business people, doormen - in fact anyone who can help solve this problem.

Supt Dawson Cotton
Supt Dawson Cotton: Working with pub owners
"But I would make a direct appeal to young people themselves. If they are confronted with potential trouble I would urge them to put their hands in their pockets and walk away."

The human cost of ignoring that advice is graphically illustrated at Altnagelvin Hospital.

Accident and emergency consultant Alan McKinney said some injuries could be very serious.

"Some of them are serious, in fact some of them are life threatening. The range starts with more minor things, broken nose, cracked tooth and extend right up to injuries with bottles, head injuries, even stabbings.

"The majority are head injuries and this is a particualrly difficult injury for us to deal with because these people may have drink taken."

Dominic Bonner
Dominic Bonner: Alarmed at drink culture
Bogside community worker Dominic Bonner said he had been alarmed at the drinking culture among young people which often led them into trouble, including vicious fights.

He said: "It's got to the stage now where young people - some of them only teenagers - are trying to see who can drink the most.

"It's like a competition to see who can drink more then their peers. We have found a lot of young people, particularly young girls, who feel the need to drink because their friends are doing it.

"They don't feel part of the group if they're not in the town drinking on a Friday or Saturday night. That culture has to change."


More stories about people being affected by crime will be featured on BBC Cracking Crime day - 18 September.

If you have a story to tell about how crime has had an impact on your life - and perhaps how others can learn from it - get in touch with our Cracking Crime team right away.

Call us on 02890 338394 to tell us your story.

Write to: Crime Day, BBC Northern Ireland, Broadcasting House, Ormeau Avenue, Belfast BT2 8HQ.

Or use this form to e-mail your response.

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13 Sep 02 | N Ireland
16 Sep 02 | N Ireland
18 Sep 02 | N Ireland
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