New neighbourhood officers are up for the job, says police commander

PSNI District Commander for Antrim & Newtownabbey, Superintendent Muir Clark.
PSNI District Commander for Antrim & Newtownabbey, Superintendent Muir Clark.

The PSNI’s District Commander has given an assurance that Newtownabbey’s new neighbourhood policing team officers are “up for the job”.

Superintendent Muir Clark offered the assurance after concerns were voiced by two local councillors about cutbacks within community/neighbourhood policing.

During Antrim and Newtownabbey Council’s latest monthly meeting, Macedon Councillor Billy Webb criticised the reduction in neighbourhood policing, saying “This is something they will, as we will, live to regret.”

Alderman Mark Cosgrove claimed that the community policing service in Glengormley has been “absolutely decimated” by changes to existing personnel, with relationships built up by local beat officers over the years now lost. He claimed that the PSNI’s process for recruiting neighbourhood officers was “fatally flawed”, saying it will take new officers “years and years and years to build up these relationships again.”

While recognising the fiscal difficulties being faced by the PSNI, Alderman Cosgrove described the changes to community policing as “particularly concerning” and echoed Cllr Webb’s comment, saying: “I know we will live to regret it.”

Responding to the councillors’ remarks, Supt Clark said the changes are part of a wider transformation process as the PSNI aligns itself with new council structures, and as a result of budgetary pressures.

“The new Neighbourhood Team for Newtownabbey will continue to focus on keeping people safe, preventing crime and detecting criminals. The engagement work of this dedicated Neighbourhood Team will be enhanced by new Local Policing Teams who will respond to calls with a mindset around longer term problem solving,” he commented.

“I am confident that the officers making up these teams are up for the job. All of the neighbourhood officers selected in the process have previous neighbourhood experience and understand the issues that matter most to local people.

“The selection process for the neighbourhood posts was fair, open and transparent and I reject any criticism that it was flawed. Furthermore, many of the officers who will form the Local Policing Teams will bring previous neighbourhood experience, which can only benefit communities.”

Supt Clark added: “I am confident that these changes will mean that police are there when people need us the most and allow for the delivery of an efficient and sustainable service which maintains our ‘Policing with the Community’ ethos.”

Meanwhile, during last week’s meeting of full council, members welcomed confirmation that £27,000 of additional funding will be provided by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive towards expanding the Community Safety Warden scheme during 2015/16.

The purpose of the scheme, which has been operating in the Antrim area since 2010, is to address low level anti-social behaviour and neighbourhood disturbance through routine high visibility patrols, community engagement and participation at community events.

The money will be used to increase warden patrols in other areas of the borough where anti-social behaviour is being reported.