SDLP Councillors Thomas O’Hanlon, Gerald Mallon and Eamon McNeill met with senior police officers in Armagh this week to discuss ongoing rural crime and sought assurances from the Area Commander Joe McMinn that additional efforts would be made to clamp down on the escalating problem of rural crime.
SDLP Group Leader Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon explained: ‘There is a real and palpable anger in the farming and rural community about ongoing rural crime and more must be done by the PSNI to ensure the issue is tackled immediately and that was the message we brought to the PSNI leadership team in Armagh today.
“However what became quite clear during our discussions is that local policing resources are constantly being raided right across the north to police the nightly parade at Twadell Avenue in North Belfast which is costing the tax payer £55,000 per night which equates to over £20million per year if repeated every night.
“This is astonishing, rural crime is on the increase and yet the PSNI can divert essential resources to Belfast. This means the local neighbourhood teams may miss duty in their dedicated area one night every so often, but this soon mounts up and cannot continue.”
New SDLP Councillor Eamon McNeill explained: “I am only onto the council a few weeks and have been inundated by calls from local farmers in particular who are extremely worried about the ongoing thefts of animals and machinery across the area. The Police have assured us that additional resources are being put in place to tackle the issue and they are seeking to increase their presence across our areas, both day and night.
“Rural communities are by their very nature work closely with each other and they very quickly notice if something just isn’t right with a neighbours shed or they will notice machinery moving late at night when it everything is normally quite. I would ask our communities to be extra vigilant, and to work with each other to ensure those responsible are caught and brought before the courts where they belong.
Middletown Councillor Gerald Mallon explained: “I am a farmer and I know many of those who have been victims of this crime, in fact there were attempts to steal some of my livestock, but I was one of the lucky ones that the thieves must have been disturbed.
“We live in an area, in close proximity to the south and I am pleased that the PSNI and An Garda Síochána are working very closely to ensure they try and catch those responsible. Be it the theft of animals, oil, tractors or machinery the replacement of these items are very costly which cannot be sustained.”