'We've cut crime but are mindful of dissident threat,'
Policing, like all other critical front line public services, has had to deliver significant efficiencies which, more often than not, translates into fewer police numbers.
The Chief Constable is on record as saying that police funding is a political decision. I would however like to reassure the public that we have the appropriate number of police officers available 24/7 across Belfast, and prioritise our response according to the risk posed to public safety.
Over the last 12 months, the police service in Belfast, working with the community and partners, has seen crime reduce by 2,203, we have seen significant reductions in robbery down by 90 crimes, burglary down by 726 crimes and violent crime down by 518 crimes.
Belfast is a safe, prosperous and vibrant place to live, work and visit. In particular, we have invested significant additional resources into our local policing teams, doubled the size of our proactive crime team and put 50% more officers into the team that manages some of our most prolific offenders across Belfast.
However, on a daily basis, police officers and staff make difficult decisions about what we go to, and when. Like colleagues in health, education and local government, we must prioritise our resources against the things that harm people the most.
At peak times where we see increased incidents and calls for assistance, we prioritise our response according to risk to life and vulnerability. This is a reality for all public services in 2017.
The unique challenge for the Police Service of Northern Ireland is that a small number of people are determined to kill police officers and sometimes use mock calls to try and harm the men and women serving their communities. Therefore, on occasions we need to carry out some additional checks regarding the legitimacy of a call for assistance. This does sometimes have an impact on the speed of our response to certain situations but, again, I would like to reassure the public that if they contact us in an emergency, we will respond speedily and with regard to the current risk.
By way of example, regarding the device left on the Brians Well Road in Poleglass, police responded to a report of a suspicious object being left in the area just after 10.20pm on January 13. Police immediately carried out a number of searches and nothing was found where the device was initially reported to have been seen. During a follow-up search in daylight, the area was secured by police, the police helicopter was deployed and a full clearance operation began on the afternoon of Saturday, January 14, which ran through into Sunday, January 15. Once found, the device was declared a viable explosive by ATO, who made it safe and removed it for further forensic examination.
It's important to note that information provided to police isn't always complete, and on previous occasions it has sometimes been deliberately obscure. The blame for this lies with those criminals and no one else.
We were relieved to take the explosive device out of circulation, but there is no doubt that it was designed to kill or seriously injure officers serving the local community in west Belfast.
Regarding car crime, local police officers and the specialist Auto Crime Team, supported by colleagues from our Operational Support Department and the police helicopter, have and will continue to take stolen cars off the streets, arrest offenders and bring them before the courts.
We are working with the community and have made significant progress - the Auto Crime Team has been instrumental in vehicle thefts being reduced in west Belfast by 42% in the last 10 years.
While we do not discuss specific intelligence or operational details in public, we have said for quite some time the threat against police remains severe. The recent attempt on the lives of two of our colleagues underlines the severity of this threat. We take the security and safety of police officers and staff extremely seriously.