Belfast Telegraph

Raymond Murray: People need to come forward to PSNI so we can end this scourge

Greenisland train station, close to where the shooting took place
Greenisland train station, close to where the shooting took place

By Raymond Murray

It is almost a forgotten by-product of the news that we have been listening to, some of us for decades.

The "and finally" news line of someone, usually a young man, having been shot or beaten by one or another of the gangs of terrorists and paramilitaries that plague the decent, ordinary people of our community.

Many seem desensitised to it, long since switched off as the statistics grow and alongside them the danger of communal apathy.

Apathy to such a degree that many have stopped looking behind the trite justifications the masked men parade in front of us. There is little sympathy for the victims of these attacks whether or not the allegations of their perceived wrongdoings are true or false. I accept that, but I would ask the public to think about the long-term effects on themselves, their families and their neighbours.

These attacks don't happen in isolation, they happen in communities. The screams of their victims resonate far beyond the location of the attack.

They happen in front of children, the elderly and the uninvolved. They too will carry the scars of the attack, not on their knees but in their minds. The paramilitaries say they carry out these attacks to protect the community but all too often those who pull the trigger or wield the bat commit the same or worse crimes themselves.

They say it works. I'm telling you it doesn't; 78% of those subjected to these attacks reoffend, quickly and often at a level more serious than before.

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Here is one man's offending: six cases before the attack, 25 after. The community subjected to an escalated level of criminality four times what it was before.

So what is it really all about? It's about paramilitary power, control, possession of the streets, hypocrisy, the protection of their own criminal interests and locking communities in the past in case they see a brighter future where the gunmen are left behind.

Reporting crime such as drug dealing or antisocial behaviour to police is more likely to stop it.

Officers tackle these issues and place people before the courts every day with much lower re-offending rates than ever achieved through violence.

When people ask paramilitaries to act instead, they are putting themselves in hock. Eventually they will come and look for the payback. Nothing is for free. Every day the police work against these gangs, disrupting, dismantling and detecting them and their members.

But we can't succeed on our own. We want to work with communities. We need witnesses most of all and if you can't give that, give us information to help the police help the community.

I appreciate the frustrations that can grow with the criminal justice system but its checks and balances are there for a reason and protect us all.

If you can't give the evidence we need or information we can act on, then, even in the most passive way, show disapproval.

There is nothing the paramilitaries fear more than the communities where they live turning on them, and these communities may have more power than they know.

  • Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray is head of the PSNI's Serious Crime Branch

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