THE overwhelming majority of people living in the Rosslea and Erne East area would not report a crime initially to the police, a new PSNI Confidence Research Project has found.
Conducted by LucidTalk, the research focused on 12 District Electoral Areas (DEAs) which would previously have been viewed to have lower levels of confidence in policing, including the Erne East area.
The project comprised of micro-polls and focus groups with participants to gauge what people’s views are on policing in their area.
The police uniform was a particular bone of contention for people from a Catholic background.
“Catholics don’t like the uniform and think it’s too much like the old RUC uniform,” the research found.
“There is too much gear being carried - it looks too aggressive,” was one comment,
However, another key theme from the research was that Protestant communities felt they were being alienated and that the police were “biased” towards the Catholic community.
Only 12 per cent of research respondents in Erne East said they would report a crime to the police themselves, the lowest of all the DEAs which took part.
Despite this though, the area’s perception of local policing was third best (47 per cent).
Erne East participants were not impressed by police responsiveness, only giving a 12 per cent scoring, but their overall level of confidence in policing was joint first with participants from Coleraine (59 per cent).
The general view of community policing is that it is in decline, according to the results of the focus groups.
Participants said that while police visibility was important to them, they felt there wasn’t enough of it in their community.
People want to see mobile units become a more regular feature in their area too, using this facility as a means of engaging with the younger generation in particular.
But there was an understanding by those who took part in the focus groups that the PSNI is “under-resourced and under-funded”.
There was a suggestion that officers should attend more community events in plain clothing rather than uniform and mix with people from that area in order to get to know them better.
The focus group felt that community leaders and churches should feed into the work of the PSNI more too.
Reflecting on the findings of the research PSNI District Commander, Jane Humphries told the latest  Fermanagh and Omagh Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) meeting that she and her colleague Chief Inspector Clive Beatty had been committed to ensuring officers who came to work in the area were also from the area.
“Human Resources were very keen to fill vacancies here quickly but I said I was quite happy to run with vacancies as long as the officers who did come were from this area and would be staying here,” she told PCSP members.
PCSP Ulster Unionist member, Howard Thornton said he wasn’t surprised by the findings of the confidence project.
“We have found ourselves fighting for community officers, especially for the area of Lisnaskea and further out.
“So it is inevitable that these would be the findings.
“I’m not blaming the police officers - it is the financing of the policing.
“All that we predicted is coming into being - that lack of contact, engagement with one to two officers.
“And it is all down to service cuts. There needs to be more investment,” he added.