The DUP’s representatives on the Policing Board have praised the efforts of PSNI officers as part of recent successful operations targeting dissident republicans and those involved in serious and organised crime across Northern Ireland.
Speaking after today’s Board meeting with the Chief Constable Simon Byrne, DUP North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey said:
‘‘The success of the recent policing operation targeting the membership and activities of the New IRA has demonstrated the overriding benefits of effective cooperation between the PSNI and our national intelligence agencies including MI5. Our thanks go out to all involved. The reality is that the public demand to see more of this coordinated action against elements intent on wreaking havoc and harm across local communities.
“It is important that the groundwork for this operation is not overshadowed by weak sentencing. As supported by the Chief Constable, DoJ need to urgently examine how we can put those committed to carrying out acts of terrorism, attacks against police or prison officers or serious sexual offences behind bars faster and for longer.
“The sustained and sectarian disorder directed toward police officers at Distillery Street last month is a timely reminder of the unique challenges facing our police service. If these were any other public servants or private citizens the clamour from some politicians and the human rights lobby would be incredible. Instead, on this issue, their silence is deafening.
“I share the Chief Constable’s desire to see the additional security funding element of the PSNI’s budget retained, enhanced and ultimately have enough flexibility to meet the persisting threat against local officers and staff. As a Party we will continue to make the case for this, as well as more sustainable financial arrangements for local policing, both at Westminster and within the Executive.’’
East Belfast DUP MLA Joanne Bunting also pressed for better communication between the PSNI and the wider public over the role and activities of the Paramilitary Crime Task Force in targeting certain proscribed organisations but not others.
‘‘The Organised and Paramilitary Crime Taskforces in Northern Ireland have made enormous strides in tackling the scourge of paramilitarism and serious and organised crime across Northern Ireland. In July alone 25 searches were carried out by the PCTF resulting in 7 arrests.
“However the public rightly seek an explanation as to why the number of proscribed organisations being investigated has steadily fallen in recent years. There is also a common misconception in our Province that because terrorist organisations which pose a national security risk are instead engaged by national security arrangements/agencies the PSNI are neglecting the threat of certain groups.
“Ultimately the PSNI has a duty to communicate plainly and regularly with members of the public relation to its statutory role, its activities against each organisation and the impact these operations are having in preventing harm within local communities. The Chief Constable has indicated that the findings of the National Crime Agency review will provide greater detail and we look forward to that moving forward.’’
Raising the issue of rising costs associated with rural crime, DUP West Tyrone MLA Tom Buchanan concluded:
‘‘The insurer NFU Mutual has estimated that the cost of rural crime in Northern Ireland has risen by 18% in 2019 to £3.3m. This trend will be deeply worrying for farmers and rural dwellers who are already grappling with a range of challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is critical that this form serious and organised crime is not neglected by the PSNI moving forward. As we near the end of the Brexit implementation period it is vital that criminals operating on a cross-border are not able to evade justice as a result of a breakdown of cooperation.
“I welcome the Chief Constable’s commitment to using new forms technology, including the roll out of PSNI’s new Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) Interceptor Team, to better support prevention of crime of this nature and have a greater presence in areas at-risk.
“It is imperative that all steps are taken to prevent further serious harm, whether it be financial, operational or psychological, to farmers and rural dwellers on the end of these despicable attacks.’’