Belfast Telegraph

New plain-clothes tactic is a success for PSNI with series of arrests made

PSNI officers at Europa Buscentre in Belfast performing a stop and search during a new plain-clothes police patrol
PSNI officers at Europa Buscentre in Belfast performing a stop and search during a new plain-clothes police patrol
Superintendent Pat Foy

By David Young, PA

A new PSNI tactic involving plain-clothes officers deploying alongside uniformed colleagues has secured a series of arrests and seizures in Belfast over the festive period.

Project Servator uses non-uniformed officers to observe how people react when they encounter a visible police patrol on the beat.

Their intelligence-gathering role is to spot individuals who act suspiciously when they see police nearby, perhaps by attempting to hide or make off at pace in the other direction.

Servator, Latin for 'watcher', was trialled by the PSNI throughout 2019, including during the Open Championship golf tournament at Portrush in July and a six-week deployment in Belfast city centre in the lead-up to Christmas.

The Servator team was on the ground 70 times in Belfast from November 17 to December 28, patrolling shopping areas across the city and the main transport hubs. During that time it made nine arrests, reported three people for summons, issued four Community Resolution Notices and dealt with more than 150 other individuals by other means, such as by issuing advice or engaging in conversation.

Several drugs seizures were made as a result of the deployments and the arrests included two suspected members of a city centre pick-pocketing gang.

Superintendent Pat Foy, the PSNI's strategic lead for the project, said the success of Servator was its unpredictability.

"The plain-clothes officers are specially trained, they know the tell-tale signs, they know when someone is trying to avoid police," she said.

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