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Tuesday, 8 January, 2002, 21:06 GMT
Sustained crime crackdown promised
Police are trying to combat rising crime in Belfast
Police are trying to combat rising crime in Belfast
A senior police officer has promised that a crackdown on criminals hitting businesses and homes in south Belfast will be sustained.

On Tuesday 12 people were arrested as the result of a major search and arrest operation aimed at combating rising crime in the south of the city.

The police said that after months of careful planning, officers had targeted criminals in the Greater Belfast area as well as the nearby towns of Bangor and Lisburn.

The first phase of the operation started on Tuesday morning. There were further arrests on Tuesday afternoon. Twenty-one houses and other properties were searched.

Inspector Alan Mains:
Inspector Alan Mains: "To bring people to court, we need evidence"

The police also seized about 3,000 worth of cannabis.

The latest crime figures from the Police Service of Northern Ireland show that in over 900 armed robberies across the province, more than a third were carried out in south Belfast.

Since April 2001, in south Belfast there were 355 robberies. Of those only 37 cases were solved - a success rate of 11%.

There were 1,733 burglaries. Of those 235 cases were solved - a success rate of 7%.

However, in a BBC interview, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Mains said the police intended to keep up the pressure on criminals targeting south Belfast and were planning similar operations.

We are dealing with such a volume of crime here - everything from opportunists, going to supply a need for drugs, beer and cigarettes, to the more organized criminal who goes out and takes out a Securicor van

DCI Mains

He said: "The operation today was not a one-off as people might perceive it to be.

"It has come on the back of a very successful operation over the Christmas period in what we would consider to be the busiest place in Northern Ireland and in Belfast - not just commercially, but socially.

"It was one of many carefully planned operations and we will sustain it, given the time and experience of our officers and the evidence that is required to bring people to court."

DCI Mains said that the area was being targeted by both hardened criminals with paramilitary links and opportunists.

"There seems to be a correlation of terrorists moving to organised crime.

"But we are dealing with such a volume of crime here - everything from opportunists, going to supply a need for drugs, beer and cigarettes, to the more organized criminal who goes out and takes out a Securicor van on delivery."

Carmel Hanna MLA
Carmel Hanna:"We have to concentrate more on crime prevention"

DCI Mains added that the police were "confident" that their rate of solving cases would have improved by the end of this year's accounting period in April 2002.

South Belfast assembly member Carmel Hanna said she was not surprised at the statistics and that she was very aware of the crime problem in her constituency.

"South Belfast is perceived as reasonably affluent and indeed is very affluent in patches and is seen as easy pickings," he said.

Mrs Hanna said the police needed to do more to address the problem and called for community policing to be seriously considered.

"We know that the police service is in transition and maybe there is scope for reorganisation, maybe civilianisation of some of the duties."

Lord Mayor of Belfast councillor Jim Rodgers welcomed the police operation and said the vast majority of people throughout the city would support it.

BBC NI's Connor McCauley reports:
"The operation in which police visited 21 addresses is in response to increasing crime in the south Belfast area"
Detective Chief Inspector Alan Mains:
tells BBC NI's Sarah Travers: "This was not a one-off operation, this will be ongoing"
South Belfast assembly member Carmel Hanna:
"We need more community policing and there is also a role for the courts"
See also:

08 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Police raid on crime suspects
25 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
Violent crime concerns in Belfast
23 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
Child threatened during shop robbery
06 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
'Creeper' car thieves target homeowners
20 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
Security grants offered to small businesses
21 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
Drivers stranded in new auto scam
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