Dromore’s Skeagh House care home was ransacked during a break-in last week, fuelling fears of an upsurge in vandalism and prompting appeals to parents and the wider public.
The incident follows reports of vandalism at the new Dromore Primary School site last month and comes amid fresh complaints of anti-social behaviour in the town park.
Last Tuesday night, June 23, lights were seen to be on in Skeagh House - standing vacant since a landslip forced its evacuation - and the break-in was confirmed the next day.
“On Wednesday, 24 June, we received a report of Skeagh House in Dromore being broken into,” said the PSNI’s Sergeant Billy Stewart. “This is a disused care home and enquiries revealed that lights had been seen on in the property the previous evening, 23 June.
“The premises were ransacked and damage caused.
“We would like to hear from anyone who has information in relation to this incident.
“We can be contacted on 101, quoting ref: 756 240615.”
Lagan Valley MLA and Policing Board member Brenda Hale said the break-in, coupled with the earlier incident at the school site, was a cause for concern.
“Skeagh House has been closed for several years and a public consultation is to take place over the coming months regarding the future of the home,” she said. “A substantial amount of damage was caused to the interior of the building and I would encourage anyone with information to contact the PSNI with any useful information which may lead to the apprehension of the culprits.
“I am extremely concerned at the recent spate of vandalism in Dromore, with the new primary school building also targeted in recent weeks, and ask the public to be vigilant over the coming summer months and report any suspicious activity to the PSNI.”
It was in late May that there emerged reports of vandalism at the new school site, where youths were also said to be climbing on scaffolding.
At the time Inspector Leslie Badger said: “Parents, please check on your children. Do you know where they are?
“Building sites are not playgrounds; these sites are dangerous if not treated with respect.
“You are also trespassing if you do not have a reason to be there.”
A similar appeal followed last week’s break-in at Skeagh House.
“We would also encourage parents to speak to their children,” said Sergeant Stewart, “and warn them of the dangers of entering vacant buildings and trespassing.”
Meanwhile, a local man, who did not want to be named, is reporting a catalogue of damage at Dromore town park, where, as a regular visitor with his child, he has seen evidence, he says, of an increase in vandalism, under-age drinking and even “drugs paraphernalia”.
He said damage included lighting and signs at the viaduct end of the park, a ‘deep water’ sign and lamp thrown into the river and a broken lamp-post under the motorway bridge.
“Apart from broken bottles etc,” he said, “lighting has been smashed, warning signs ripped off and thrown into the lagan, but most annoying of all, the life-rings are also thrown into the river without fail.
“This is a serious offence as a life could be lost due to no life-ring being at hand, especially as children are now off for summer numbers and use of the park will increase.”
The frustrated resident added his voice to the chorus calling for parents to “ask where their kids are and what they are up to”.