We have more work to do to reduce crime rates: police

Published: 16 Aug 2012 13:000 comments

CHIEF Inspector Sue Steen says "significant work" is needed after a 12-month report into police performance here revealed that a number of targets have been missed by officers.

The information was provided by the PSNI at the first public meeting of the new Policing and Community Safety Partnership last week, which was chaired by Sinn Fein Councillor Stephen Huggett.

Targets such as reducing thefts and increasing the percentage of people who agree that police and other agencies are dealing with anti-social behaviour and crime issues have not been met.

There was also an increase in reported crime during the last financial year (2011/12). Altogether, 3087 crimes were reported to police, including 978 cases of 'violence against the person', 262 burglaries, 731 incidents of theft, 58 sexual offences, 115 cases of fraud and forgery and 729 incidents of criminal damage. According to the PSNI, last year's burglary figures were "unusually high" due to a spate of caravan burglaries.

The chief inspector outlined the figures and was joined by her PSNI colleagues; Sector Inspector Rory Hoy and Superintendent Alwyn Barton. Constable Trevor Connor from the Neighbourhood Watch team also attended the public meeting in Enniskillen Townhall.

The senior officer stated that "significant activity" by uniformed officers, CID and members of the public phoning in about suspicious activity or people was a great example of everyone working together, adding that F District has the highest clearance rate in the entire police service of Northern Ireland. "A lot of positive things are happening," she said.

Ulster Unionist Councillor Harold Andrews raised the issue of crimes in rural areas and spoke of a "spate of robberies" occurring in the South/East Fermanagh area. He asked the Chief Inspector if the crime was matched in other villages and towns in the county. "We can only breakdown figures in station area; figures are relatively low," she responded.

Councillor Rosemary Barton added: "Burglary in a dwelling is on the rise. That's worrying."

"That's the most concerning thing. Since April we have had an increase in domestic burglary," replied Inspector Steen who said she couldn't see a worrying or distinct trend around burglaries of older people but was painfully aware of cross-Border crime and travelling crime.

Panel member Jean McVitty said elderly people living alone are feeling isolated. Responding, Superintendent Alwyn Barton said his officers were working with 'Good Morning NI', a free, community based telephone support service for older and vulnerable people. He said he believed it to be a structure that could be used a lot more and said he was happy to re-emphasis that to his officers. Chief Inspector Steen said her team review overnight incidents and go out and reassure pensioners by talking to them, some even have tea with them.

Neville Armstrong, another panel member, discussed what he described as "high-levels" of anti-social behaviour in villages. The report states that police have failed to establish a baseline of the number of anti-social behaviour incidents with the Chief Inspector saying it is a target "we are doomed to fail on".

The PSNI say regular reviews are conducted of anti-social behaviour hotspots in the Fermanagh area and officers are briefed with neighbourhood police teams taking the lead.

The number of adults and children killed or seriously injured on the road in Fermanagh through six monthly reports has also increased slightly, but the PSNI will continue to maintain close working relationships with the Roads and Armed Support Unit with a strong focus on areas of concern.

The target of reducing the number of non-domestic violence with injury crimes by three per cent points was not met, nor was the target of reducing thefts by five per cent. Detecting violence with injury crimes by three per cent was met, detecting domestic violence with injury crimes by five per cent points was not. Detecting most serious sexual crime and racist crime was met, but detecting sectarian crime by two per cent points was not.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter following the meeting Chief Inspector Steen said it was "a given" that the issues raised will have to be looked at.

"I think there is more work we can do, yes. A number of our targets we have not been able to meet; some we have narrowly missed the mark and others we do need significant work on and that's a given. I would stress that these figures finished on March 31 so we are now five months down the line and a number of the those targets we have been able to bring that trend down and reduce those numbers down. That's a positive message I want to get out there," she said.

Inspector Steen explained that in the first two weeks of July the PSNI cleared 11 burglaries and brought nine criminals before the courts, adding: "That was a combination of the good work of the community ringing in to report suspicious activity and the good work of my officers and detectives in bringing those people before the courts."

* Listen to Chief Inspector Sue Steen talking to us on impartialreporter.com *

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