Councillor will defy 'pen-pushing bureaucrats' to re-erect posters alerting locals of rise in break-ins
A Belfast councillor is to defy a Stormont department's ban and re-erect controversial anti-burglary posters following a dramatic rise in break-ins across the area he represents.
The SDLP's Declan Boyle says the number of burglaries in south Belfast is "alarming", with police statistics showing that, in the Stranmillis area alone, break-ins have increased by more than 150%.
Mr Boyle first erected his posters alerting local people to a rise in burglaries in the area, and advising them to improve their home security, in November. However, he was ordered to take them down by TransportNI, the branch of the Department for Regional Development (DRD) responsible for roads and street lighting.
The agency warned that, under Article 87 of the Roads Order, he had acted unlawfully.
Mr Boyle was instructed to remove the posters immediately or have them taken down by officials at a cost of £50 each to him.
But Mr Boyle, who is chairman of the South Belfast Policing and Community Safety Partnership, last night vowed to defy the TransportNI edict and put the posters back up.
"Constituents have contacted me reporting a further alarming rise in break-ins with statistics from the PSNI confirming that," he said.
"In this financial year, burglary in Stranmillis has increased by 50%. Last month there was a rise of over 150% in break-ins in the area compared to January 2015.
"The police have stated that this increase is reflected across south Belfast and the rest of the city."
The councillor said he was fully aware that re-erecting the posters could bring him into conflict with the DRD again.
"TransportNI says my posters are illegal but I won't sit on my hands while people's homes are ransacked," he insisted. "These pen-pushing bureaucrats, who get into a tizzy about a poster highlighting crime, are totally out of touch with the community."
Mr Boyle said that, in the 10 locations where his posters were up for nine days, PSNI statistics - obtained under the Freedom of Information Act - showed that there was only one burglary.
"The posters proved to be a speedy and effective way of raising awareness and reminding people, in a very forthright way, to increase their home security.
"I don't know why anyone in authority has a problem with them. All they are designed to do is help people. It will be disgraceful if the DRD oppose them again," he added.
Mr Boyle said it was "unsettling" that TransportNI had swung into action so quickly demanding he remove them last time.
"They were contacting me with all sorts of orders within 48 hours of the posters going up. This is the same agency which has ignored the flying of paramilitary flags on lampposts across south Belfast all year."
The councillor said that police had reported a rise in the number of creeper burglaries in south Belfast, with Audi cars in particular being targeted.
He also revealed that police had made a "significant arrest of a prolific burglar" in the area recently.