Belfast Telegraph

Police must get the resources for the job

Editor's viewpoint

While there has been a welcome decline in the overall number of crimes reported to police in the past year, any relief must be tempered by the increase in what most people would regard as serious offences.

The number of paramilitary linked offences, domestic abuse incidents and sexual crimes all rose, which shows there should be no complacency that the battle against crime is being won.

While paramilitary-style offences make up a very small proportion of the 98,000 crimes recorded in 2016/17, the mere fact that terrorist gangs still exist almost 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement is a sad commentary on our society which seems to accede to the idea of an acceptable level of violence.

If these crimes were happening in other parts of the UK there would be a public outcry, rather than the resigned acceptance or ritual condemnation which occurs here.

Of course there can be no acceptance of terrorism in any of its forms and the PSNI and intelligence services must be commended for their efforts in stymieing much of the planned dissident republican violence.

Dissidents were responsible for 25 of the 28 paramilitary shootings in which people were injured. By contrast loyalist gangsters carried out the vast majority of assaults. However, the aim of both groups was to continue to wield influence in their localities through fear and violence.

It is a tactic which works to a large extent because the public seems reluctant to provide the evidence which would put these criminals in prison.

Domestic violence and sexual assault, crimes perpetrated overwhelmingly on women, have reached record levels - 30,000 domestic abuse incidents were recorded - and those are shaming statistics.

The death of Concepta Leonard in Fermanagh shows how such abuse can escalate with tragic consequences. The only ray of light is that increasingly victims now seem more prepared to come forward to report abuse by partners. Slowly but surely the taboo surrounding this type of crime is being dismantled, and perpetrators are being brought to justice.

Given the demands on the PSNI, particularly from the ever constant threat of republican violence, it is imperative that the force is given the resources required to tackle crime in all its forms. The force has suffered budget cuts in recent years, but austerity must not be allowed to impair its effectiveness.

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