Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Sharp rise in serious crime

Serious violent crime went up by nearly a quarter in Northern Ireland in the past year, according to new police figures.

Since April last year, 1,665 incidents were reported, compared with 1,364 in the same ten month period in 2007/08 — a rise of more than 22%.

The categories include murder, manslaughter, firearms and explosive offences.

Last month the PSNI reported a 17.5% rise in such crimes from April to January, but today officers are expected to tell members of the Policing Board the rate has gone even higher.

Despite the rise in the most serious types of offences, overall violent crime is actually down year -on-year by 5%.

At February’s Policing Board meeting, Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde said in relative terms the 17.5% increase in the number of serious violent crimes was not substantial.

“Serious violent crime is up by four crimes a week across a population of 1.75 million and a territory of 5,500 square miles,” he said.

The PSNI’s monthly report to the board will also show a rise of almost 6% in domestic burglaries, with 6,257 reported since last April.

Policing Board member Basil McCrea blamed the economic downturn for the rise in certain types of crime.

“The recession is starting to have an impact,” said the Ulster Unionist.

“We have had an increase in domestic burglaries and serious violent crimes and there's got to be some reason why we are getting such increases when in the past three or four years we've been seeing a steady decrease in rates.

“It has been proved that in poor economic times crime increases and I think that's what we are seeing here.”

The serious violent crime figures include a number of horrific murders that have occurred over the past 12 months.

They include the death of 81-year-old Maire Rankin whose body was found in her Newry home on Christmas morning. The mother-of-eight died of head injuries and multiple rib fractures, and her naked body was found with bruising visible on her head, around her eyes, on her chin and to both forearms.

Galway-born businesswoman Karen Walsh (42), a neighbour of Mrs Rankin, has been charged with the murder.

Belfast man Kevin Doyle is also among the victims. He died in intensive care after being attacked in Twinbrook in September.

The 30-year-old was found lying critically injured at the entrance to Summerhill Grange in the early hours of the morning. It is understood he had been stabbed.

The father of four is reported to have been visiting a friend in nearby Summerhill Drive and was making his way home when he was attacked.

The death of Larne father-of-one Kenneth Nicholl, whose body was found in an alleyway yards from his home, also sparked a murder investigation.

The 29-year-old was found dead in an alleyway next to the Herbert Avenue home he shared with his partner and young son in November. Mr Nicholl, a welder at Ballylumford power station, was stabbed to death on a Sunday morning.

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