Sir Hugh Orde: Why you're safer now
After the Belfast Telegraph's Laurence White penned a piece questioning just what is being done about levels of violent crime in Northern Ireland, PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde argues we're less at risk than before
Laurence White is right that it is little consolation to those who find themselves the victims of thugs, robbers and rapists that you are less likely to be a victim of crime in Northern Ireland than in many other parts of the UK.
Every person who becomes a victim of crime suffers a traumatic and distressing experience and I have spoken to many victims of crime, particularly those who have suffered violent crime, and the impact on their lives and their family's lives can't be over estimated. In very many cases their lives and their families' lives are never the same again.
However, I am also acutely aware that fear of crime can also be equally as debilitating to many in the community. That is why, when we are talking about rises or falls in crime, the police and other organisations, including the media, have a responsibility to ensure the public have a clear, current and accurate picture of the reality of the situation.
In his investigation Mr White states that according to PSNI statistics up until April 2007 there was a rise in violent crime, robberies and sexual offences. ,
However, fast forward 11 months and the picture is significantly different.
As of the end of February, this year provisional figures show that overall crime is down 12.5%; that means that overall in the last 11 months there were nearly 14,000 fewer victims of crime who were not subjected to the trauma and distress of someone setting out to hurt them, damage their property or violate the privacy of their home.
Violent crime is down 10%, which means that there are more than 3,300 fewer victims, robberies are down 30%, 440 fewer incidents, and sexual offences are down 3%.
I fully understand that these figures will be of cold comfort to victims of crime and their families but they do show the commitment of my officers and staff to making all communities safer.
This is something that we are firmly committed to doing and will continue to do.
While it would be always my preference that crimes did not occur in the first place, when they do my officers will carry out professional and thorough investigations.
And improving our clearance rates, bringing more people before the courts who are committing crimes against our communities is a key priority and something we are committed to achieving.
In relation to some of the recent high-profile incidents referred to by Laurence White arrests have been made.
Mr White asks how robbers can hold up staff in a jewellers during rush hour and then make good their escape. Police responded to this robbery within two minutes. Two men were arrested and further enquiries are ongoing.
Two people have also been arrested following the disturbances that took place in King Street in Belfast city centre and this remains a live and pro-active investigation led by a team of experienced detectives.
Following the vicious murder of Frank McGreevy in west Belfast, police have arrested and charged an individual. One person has been charged with the murder of Robert McCartney. The heinous murder of Paul Quinn, which is being investigated and led by An Garda Siochana is receiving assistance and co-operation from the Police Service. I fully understand that people are concerned about crime in communities, particularly when high profile incidents occur or there appears to be an increase in the brutality and viciousness of attacks being perpetrated.
However, let me reassure you that police are working hard alongside other partner agencies to tackle crimes and have particularly focused efforts on combating violent crime and anti social behaviour. So what are we doing? We continue to target crime hotspots using resources in the areas that account for the majority of street crime. We are working with partners in initiatives such as Get Home Safe, which targets anti-social behaviour and underage drinking. We run high visibility operations such as Nightlife in the city centre, which have been successful in preventing violent crime and more serious incidents from taking place. We are making a difference — but there is always more that we can do. The key to protecting communities is partnership working. We need information from communities to solve crimes. We need to talk to communities about what their concerns are so that we can prioritise and work together to make streets safer.
Mr White acknowledges the point I made at a recent Policing Board meeting that the Police Service needs constructive support from the community and all political parties.
This is a point that cannot be overstated. We are getting a lot of support from all communities, but there are still incidents that are occurring on a daily basis, when either the victim is refusing to co-operate with police or witnesses are not coming forward. This is not acceptable. Police have a key role to play in keeping the streets safe, but the reality is that the only way we are going to rid society of those intent on wreaking misery on the lives of others is for people to come forward, give statements and be prepared to give that information before a court.
The headline of the recent article in the Belfast Telegraph is 'At the Mercy of the Thugs'. I personally don't believe this is the case. Much progress is being made in preventing and detecting crime on our streets.
We must all accept responsibility — police, political representatives and the media for moving society forward and enabling everyone to live their lives in peace and without fear.