Criminal gangs from north and west Belfast are being blamed for an increase in thefts and burglaries across the borough in recent months.
According to the PSNI, the gangs have been targeting homes and businesses in the Antrim and Newtownabbey Council area, carrying out a series of burglaries, thefts and aggravated burglaries.
Councillor Paul Michael, a member of Antrim and Newtownabbey Policing and Community Safety Partnership, has voiced serious concerns about the recent “crime spike” in the borough.
Speaking after meeting with PSNI District Commander, Superintendent Muir Clark to discuss the issue, he commented: “The District Commander reported that a number of recent crimes of theft and burglary across the borough were carried out by crime gangs from north and west Belfast.
“It is very worrying that these gangs are travelling from areas of Belfast to specifically target homes and businesses in the Antrim and Newtownabbey area.
“It was also very alarming to hear that many thefts are down to people not securing their properties and allowing criminals easy access. It is important that people heed the PSNI’s crime prevention advice and do their bit in the fight against crime.”
Cllr Michael, who is standing as a UUP candidate in next year’s Assembly election, said it is vital that funding is used to assist community policing through key initiatives such as Community Wardens, Street Pastors and crime prevention schemes.
“We have recently seen £1.5million coming back to the PCSPs from central government, so hopefully some of that money can be used to help fund local initiatives to tackle crime and the fear of crime,” he added.
Superintendent Clark confirmed that there has been an increase in burglaries across Antrim and Newtownabbey over the last number of months. But he stressed that “police have been proactive in dealing with this crime series.”
“We’ve had specific patrols in place during the hours in which the burglaries happen most often. Indeed, burglary is a local policing priority and we have dedicated resources towards curbing this crime spike,” he told the Times.
“Local officers have also worked with our colleagues in Belfast to target the criminals that are believed to be coming into Antrim and Newtownabbey from the city.”
The District Commander concluded: “Crime prevention advice is also important and we’ve provided anti-burglary hints and tips through the press and social media. It will take a collective effort between police and public to put these criminals before the courts, where they belong.”