Belfast Telegraph

The return of police vehicle checkpoints to Belfast: PSNI responds to terrorist bombs with 'very visible' presence over Christmas

By Claire Cromie

Regular police vehicle checkpoints are returning to Belfast for Christmas - as part of a PSNI operation to counter the surge in dissident republican activity.

Police announced a dedicated public patrolling operation to keep people safe in the city.

Chief Superintendent Alan McCrum said: "There will be a very visible police presence in Belfast city centre over the coming weeks in key locations, at key times.

"Police will be on foot, on bikes and conducting vehicle check points in hot-spot areas to prevent crime and reassure shoppers, revellers and motorists."

On Monday morning Chief Constable Matt Baggott warned of a surge in dissident republican activity after a bomb partially exploded outside a shopping centre in Belfast city centre.

A terrified driver was forced to bring up to 130lb of homemade explosives into Belfast's main commercial hub.

The detonator exploded but failed to trigger the rest of the device at the Victoria Square shopping centre.

Recent weeks have seen an increase in letter bombs, under-car booby traps, blast bombs and hijackings.

Baggott ruled out a "ring of steel" being erected in Belfast or any other major towns, which during the Troubles involved numerous armed checkpoints with military support at key arterial routes in the buildup to Christmas.

But announcing the step up in patrols on Monday evening, the PSNI said it had to recognise the increased numbers of people that will be visiting Belfast in the weeks prior to Christmas.

"The Christmas period is a time of the year when we see a significant increase in the numbers of people visiting the city, during the day and in the evenings to shop and socialise," said Chief Superintendent McCrum.

"Police are encouraging people to stay safe this Christmas; keep their own property safe, be responsible about personal safety and actively keep their communities safe by looking out for others”.

He added: "We are all aware of the threat that is posed by terrorists. Everyone can play a part in helping to tackle this by remaining vigilant and by reporting any suspicious activity or behaviour to police. Police are committed to keeping communities safe. The public can help in this process by working with and supporting Police as they seek to prevent harm and ensure that Belfast remains a safe and vibrant city to visit."

Lord Mayor Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir urged the public to support Belfast trade and festivities this Christmas.

"I would appeal for positivity," he said.

"We should all be proud of the great things happening in Belfast and the many good people in our midst.

"Our message is clear – those who seek to wreck and cause ruin have no place here.  Belfast is open for business."

Police will also be conducting a range of operations targeting drink driving and alcohol fuelled assaults.

Activity will be undertaken in relation to disrupting the sale of counterfeit goods and increasing awareness on crime prevention advice related to thefts from vehicles.

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