08/02/2011

PSNI Refute 'Community Policing Vacuum'

The North's police have rebuffed a claim of 'inertia in the delivery of effective, community-based police services' and hit back at an assertion that a policing vacuum is being filled by paramilitary activity in both loyalist and republican areas.

As news of a double-bomb trap laid in north Belfast in a failed attempt to kill officers was revealed, a PSNI statement has responded to a university research document, published yesterday, that claimed there was a "growing acceptance of paramilitary 'policing'....with paramilitaries…seeking to exploit the gaps".

"We disagree with the views and conclusions presented in the report, which takes a one-dimensional approach to a very complex subject.

"After all, the issue of paramilitarism and paramilitary-style attacks is clearly a policing issue, but not one that policing can deliver a solution to in isolation.

"Whilst we play a key role in tackling this type of criminal activity it should be recognised that there are also key responsibilities that involve community and political leaders," the statement said.

"Our officers are dedicated to working with the community to tackle and reduce serious harm and listen to local views about the issues that affect peoples' everyday lives. We are always looking to the future and how we can best deliver a policing service with our communities."

The statement also said that the Police Service of Northern Ireland is committed to delivering a personal, professional and protective policing service to the whole community.

"We know our work is having a positive effect on the community. In fact the results from NISRA's Omnibus Survey in December showed that 80% of people now have confidence in the ability of the Police Service to deliver a day-to-day policing service for everyone in Northern Ireland.

"Recorded crime is at a 12-year low, due in large part to the ongoing confidence and communication experienced within local communities throughout Northern Ireland.

"More and more people support us and want to see police on patrol in their area," the PSNI said, rejecting the document from University of Ulster criminologists whose detailed study into the relationships between the PSNI, their local communities and paramilitary groups said created a space 'in which the ever-present undercurrent of paramilitarism has flourished'.

The statement is in harsh contrast to that of Dr John Topping, a lecturer in Criminology at the University's Centre for Policing Studies.

On Monday, he said PSNI evidence showed that the policing 'experience' promised by the PSNI in the post-Patten period failed to meet community expectations and/or failed to address community fears about ongoing crime and anti-social behaviour.

"This has resulted in a growing acceptance of paramilitary 'policing' where there is a clear policing vacuum, with paramilitaries as 'entrepreneurs' seeking to exploit the gaps," explained Dr Topping.

The research paper, compiled by Dr Topping along with researcher Jonny Byrne from the University of Ulster's Institute for Research in Social Sciences, is entitled: 'Paramilitary Entrepreneurs? The Competing Imperatives of Policing Provision in Northern Ireland'.

They conducted extensive interviews within community organisations and among politicians and PSNI officers in loyalist/unionist and republican/nationalist areas of Belfast.

In total, 95 interviews were carried out between November 2007 and November 2009 - 60 of these were drawn from loyalist and republican communities with the remaining 35 drawn from PSNI officers serving within those areas.

Dr Topping quotes a loyalist community activist: "I would say every area is the same. Every area has got a paramilitary influence . . . and the politicians, the bosses in the PSNI are burying their heads. I live in a loyalist working class area and it (policing) hasn't changed one bit and, if anything, it has got worse.

Booby-trap

Meanwhile, in a graphic illustration of the real dangers faced every day in the PSNI's public service, it has been revealed that a booby-trap bomb found on Belfast's Antrim Road last month was attached to a child's bicycle.

The bomb was the second found in the area during a security operation, which lasted a number of days almost two weeks ago.

Police believe they were lured to where the first bomb was found after a window was smashed in a video shop.

Although neither bomb exploded, the senior investigating detective said a trap had been put in place "to kill police officers which could easily have murdered members of the public".

A number of controlled explosions were carried out on a car during the alert and the second device - attached to the child's bike - was found beside a scout hut two days later, as a trap for officers probing the original explosives find.

See: Policing 'Left To The Paramilitaries'

See: Antrim Road 'To Remain Closed' In Bomb Alert

(BMcC/GK)

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