Cardiff community terrorized by arsonists and their fires every night

It’s Monday September 13, just after midnight. While the people of St Mellons, Cardiff, sleep soundly, the arsonists spend a day in the field just yards from their homes.

In just 19 minutes, they set off three destructive fires. Train Park off Coleford Dr, which has a children’s playground, is the first to be targeted at 12:31 am.

Five minutes later, a skate park on Brockhampton Road, a few meters from the library and St Mellons hub, was also set on fire at 12:36 am.

At 12:50 a.m., a children’s play area in a park near Crumlin Drive was destroyed by another fire. An accelerator had been used to cause “significant damage to playground equipment and outdoor furniture” – hell leaving only the skeleton of the playground in its wake.

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Firefighter at the scene of a suspected deliberate arson attack on a playground just off Crumlin Drive in St Mellons

After that night, South Wales Police launched a social media appeal for more information. The force said the total damage from the fires is expected to cost around £ 120,000.

The extent of destruction in one night is hard to swallow. But according to several St Mellons residents, such anti-social behavior has become the norm – so much so that a public meeting was called on Monday, September 27 to deal with the incidents.

We spent an afternoon in St Mellons to see the aftermath for ourselves and to get a better insight into the area from those who live there.

During our visit, we learned of two other recent incidents. The first concerns a Jeep, which was completely set on fire this week in the parking lot of the Hendre lake park.

Resident Sean, who didn’t want us to use his second name, spotted the burnt out car while walking his dog.

“Yes, I was shocked. You don’t see that often – that’s why I took a picture. The wheels looked pretty nice – it’s just a shame, really,” he said. declared.

A Jeep set on fire in the parking lot of the Hendre lake park
A Jeep set on fire in the parking lot of the Hendre lake park

The burnt interior of the car
The burnt interior of the car

Although Sean doesn’t think there is more anti-social behavior in St Mellons than anywhere else in town – citing dog damage, litter, race boys, parking issues and a few high-speed cars like the worst he has personally witnessed – he admits “there is nothing that can be done for people here, especially children”.

“There used to be soccer fields and people played soccer, but now things seem to be moving towards the city centers,” he said.

The second recent incident is the day after another bonfire in the park just off Crumlin Drive. This time, the arsonists avoided the children’s playground and chose the terrain around it – but the devastation caused to a large circular section of grass is still hard to miss.

Pieces of carpet, kitchenware, glass bottles, tin cans, glass panels, metal railings and chain link fences can all be discerned among the ashes.

It is also revealing that a drain cover right next to the wreckage appears to have been bolted by authorities. And while we’re there, a young man is riding his motorcycle back and forth across the field, causing further damage to the grass.

The remains of a recent bonfire in a park just off Crumlin Drive
The remains of a recent bonfire in a park just off Crumlin Drive

Bolted drain cover in the park off Crumlin Drive
Bolted drain cover in the park off Crumlin Drive

Unlike Sean, the residents of Crumlin Drive have a darker view of the area – some bearing the brunt of antisocial behavior.

A mother, who wished to remain anonymous and lives in one of the houses backing onto the park, said young people “were still setting the area on fire” and that she was not shocked by recent events.

“It’s horrible here. It always happens,” she said. “I think this is the first time I’ve heard of them setting fire to [the playground], but they normally have a big fire on the ground. Lots of times we’ve caught them jumping over our yard to pinch things to stick on the fire. “

She added, “I have young children who love this park. It’s just devastating – it’s not fair.”

When asked who the abusers were, she replied, “They are probably, I would say, young adults – young people. To be honest, I’m just one person – I wouldn’t really want to get involved or say: are you doing? ‘ I’m just trying to kick them out of the garden. “

Residents of Crumlin Drive say young people frequently start fires in the park
Residents of Crumlin Drive say young people frequently start fires in the park

Houses at Crumlin Drive
Houses at Crumlin Drive

Another Crumlin Drive mom, who also wished to remain anonymous, estimated the fires were happening every month. She admitted that she had to keep her wheelie bins inside her house every bonfire night or they would be destroyed.

“Two years ago, they burned my two trash cans, the black and the green. One year, I forgot to put them inside, but I heard a noise outside. opened the door and I saw the children running, ”she recalls. .

It’s a similar story on Coleford Drive, where 70-year-old resident Marianne Connolly has lived there since 1992, her home a short walk from Train Park.

“My trash can was stolen and set on fire in the park,” she said, before pointing to her neighbor’s house across the street and adding: “The lady over there – her trash can was stolen. Most of them here have been stolen and set on fire. “

“These are the kids hanging out in the park, who smoke drugs. Young boys and children, wandering the streets at 10pm at night, on scooters,” she said.

A sign indicating that anti-vandal paint has been applied to a wall in Crumlin Drive
A sign indicating that anti-vandal paint has been applied to a wall in Crumlin Drive

While Marianne admits it’s usually “fairly quiet” on the side of the street where she lives, she believes the problems start further down the road and extend higher.

“In this particular neighborhood where I am, I find it good. But the other side of Coleford Drive is a little more difficult. There are a lot of kids down there, coming and going in the streets all night long. little kids, about 11, get on and off scooters, scare and blind, throw stones at your windows, knock on doors, “she said.

A mom who lives right across from Train Park and also wanted to remain anonymous, has a clearer view of the park itself – and the fires that have occurred there.

“Boys and girls, teenagers – all 17 to 21 – they all go down there and drink,” she said.

Of the recent fire that took place earlier this month, she said: “They started a fire in the park. So we took the police down and a few guys were arrested.”

She continued, “There’s always been a fight in the park. I think it’s just where all the boys and girls like to hang out after dark. There’s always fires and stuff there. I would say at least a couple in a month, or once a month. Two months may go by, but there’s always something going on there – if it’s not a fire, it’s a fight.”

A police car on Crumlin Drive
A police car on Crumlin Drive

She says the fires “aren’t usually that big”, but are large enough to leave scorch marks in the park – alongside “bottles everywhere.”

She is also concerned that one of the small fires could spread.

“It’s scary because there are trees everywhere. So all it takes is one tree to catch fire for it to spread. The alleys are full of trees. The last thing you want to see is that the whole park has just been destroyed. You never know how far it’s going to spread. “

Phillip, who didn’t want us to use his second name, has lived near Train Park for almost nine years. He says it is “useless” to have anything in the area because it will be destroyed by the young people.

When he first moved to St Mellons he said the area was fine – but suddenly he noticed a series of criminal damage.

“It’s just gone really low, and it’s been like that for the past, I would say, about four years,” he said.

St Mellons resident says area is gone "downhill" in recent years with a lot of criminal behavior
A resident of St Mellons said the area had ‘deteriorated’ in recent years with widespread criminal behavior

“The kids here are terrible. The older the kids here, the worse it gets. They destroy the parks and I know there has been a lot of bullying and theft.”

He added: “[In Train Park] children always grab litter and burn it. It’s been going on there for years. “

Cardiff rental bikes have also been a frequent target for young people, according to Phillip.

“You see them setting rental bikes on fire in parks, since the lockdown ended. They always ride on them. They tend to rent them and then destroy them.”

Phillip admits he “wouldn’t recommend anyone to move into this area.”

A neglected field off Crumlin Drive
A neglected field off Crumlin Drive

“Some sections of St Mellons could be good, but some areas of St Mellons are really tough. It’s like parents don’t care. They just let their kids wander. They don’t know what they’re doing. all kinds. They probably don’t even know they’re destroying the parks in St Mellons. It’s not just for young kids who need to go to the park and lose some energy – they can’t do it because of the condition of them.

Phillip believes there should be more policing in the area – and echoes Sean’s point of view that there should also be more for young people in the first place.

“I know they have the youth club in the library, but I don’t think it’s good enough for them. There must be more in St Mellons – they need something more fun for them. Lots of them cycle – so why don’t they put a cycle path here? ”

What do you think of anti-social behavior in St Mellons? Let us know in the comments below.

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