PSNI aim to break down barriers in east Belfast by offering free skate park to youth groups

The PSNI in east Belfast have launched a new initiative to help break down barriers between police and youth in the community.

Running across eight Friday nights, the Ramp House is available for youth groups to attend for free and take advantage of the facilities.

The venue is a purpose built indoor skate park, which has proven particularly popular with BMX and scooter riders.

“We’re engaging with local youth and really trying to hear what they have to say about how we police east Belfast and how we can do it better going forward,” said Pete Cunningham, PSNI Neighbourhood Inspector east Belfast.

He told UTV: “The conversation is steered by the youth that come here on any night.

“We address the issues that they want to talk about, whether it be knife crime, drugs in the community, all those whole raft of concerns that they have that maybe haven’t been heard in schools.

“We can have those offline conversations here at the ramp house.”

To get involved, young people in the community can speak to their local youth groups and clubs, or contact the east Belfast PSNI Neighbourhood policing team directly.

Away from the police initiative, the Ramp House operates seven days a week and has brought different communities together.

“It’s something we don’t even have to force because literally within three weeks of coming down you’ll have a kid from east Belfast hanging out with a kid from the Short Strand hanging out with a kid from Ballymena, hanging out with a kid from Dublin and it’s not even a thing,” Ramp House owner Robert Lowey said.

“We’ve seen it so much now that we just take it for granted.”

Mr Lowey says compared to team sports at schools like rugby and football, the skate park is helping children to develop their own confidence.

“The kids that come in for the first time, you see such a change in their personality,” he said.

“Even like the shyest kid and within 10 or 15 minutes their parents are just going ‘wow’, because they are just at it.”

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