Fir Vale residents have vented their anger at the inability of the authorities to stop the anti-social behavior that plagues their community.
At a meeting of the area’s neighbourhood watch committee at St Cuthbert’s Church on Barnsley Road last night, around 50 people came to demand the authorities take tougher action.
However, in an at times bad-tempered meeting, many residents used the recent incident at Fir Vale School, in which a fight in the canteen exploded into a near riot, as evidence of just how bad things had got.
On the day of the violence, the school was forced to close at 2pm after a large group of parents converged on the school and tried to gain entry, some reportedly armed with weapons.
While police are still investigating the causes of the incident, tensions between the Slovakian Roma and Muslim communities are thought to have been a major factor in the disorder.
Neighbourhood watch coordinator, Marianne Gipson, said the situation was ‘very volatile’.
She said: “There is so much anger. People are frustrated and nothing ever gets done. It is not just happening now it has been happening years.
“I really don’t know what can be done. There are people in the Roma community who are trying to integrate but there is a stigma. They are frightened to speak up or speak out.”
The meeting was attended by Councillor Jim Steinke, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety, who endured a barrage of questions and criticism from the audience.
He said he ‘worked daily’ with the police on the issues people had raised, but acknowledged more needed to be done to address the deep seated problems the area faces.
He said: “There is an issue about the Roma community, there is an issue about litter and there is an issue about landlords.
“Work is happening on the ground to win the confidence of the Roma community but we clearly need to explore these tensions a bit further.”