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Friday, 28 June, 2002, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
'Unprecedented' crime due to riots
Police resources are taken up with street violence
Sectarian violence must be rejected if "unprecedented levels" of crime are to be reduced, according to the first report of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Delivering the report on Friday, Acting Chief Constable Colin Cramphorn said the demands of dealing with street violence, particularly in north Belfast had resulted in an increase in ordinary crime.


With large numbers of officers tied up in public order duties, local commanders had to make some very difficult decisions on how to best meet every day policing demands

Colin Cramphorn Acting chief constable

The report, which is the first since the PSNI replaced the RUC last November, showed 17 people had died in the province as a result of continuing civil disorder during the year to the end of March.

The threat from both republican and loyalist groupings remained "very real" and continued to place "considerable demands on the police to protect the community", said Mr Cramphorn.

He said republicans were still the main line of inquiry into the break-in at Belfast's police headquarters in March.

He added that he believed Sir John Chilcott's interim report on the break-in at the Castlereagh complex would be delivered to the secretary of state "within days".

The report showed that over the past year, 315 people in the province were charged with terrorist or serious public disorder offences.

Colin Cramphorn
Colin Cramphorn: Delivered first PSNI report
Mr Cramphorn, who will be replaced by the new chief constable Hugh Orde later this year, attacked those responsible for paramilitary-style attacks, which he described as "a blight on our community".

Although the number dropped to 302 from 323 the previous year, they remained "unacceptably high", he said.

The report showed that more than 60% of victims of such attacks had been shot.

A rise of 16.6% in recorded crime was noted, which was attributed both to a new recording system and an underlying increase in crime overall.

Resourcing issues

However, the rate of crimes solved has dropped by 7% to 20.1%

"Inevitably, reducing police numbers and the diversion of scarce resources towards riots and public order situations has impacted on all aspects of policing including crime," he said.

"The violence put a severe strain on finite police resources. With large numbers of officers tied up in public order duties, local commanders had to make some very difficult decisions on how to best meet every day policing demands.

Policing Board chairman Desmond Rea
Professor Desmond Rea: Concerned at report

Responding to the report, Policing Board chairman Professor Des Rea said resourcing issues, both human and financial, facing the police were being addressed urgently by the board.

"The drain on police resources in dealing with the security and public order situation is of serious concern to the board," he said.

It is clear that the resources used to manage both could be deployed more positively to tackle crime and other more normal policing issues."

The report covers a period of mammoth changes for policing in the province

The changes came as part of sweeping reforms to the service under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement peace accord.

The then PSNI Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, admitted making the police service more representative of the whole community would take up to 10 years.

Non-political

The new trainees were recruited on a 50:50 Catholic-Protestant basis and recruitment will continue under this quota system.

In April, the first group of 44 recruits trained specifically for the PSNI graduated.

New uniforms have been introduced, as well as a new crest and service flag introduced as part of wholesale changes to policing in the province.

The programme of sweeping changes to policing in Northern Ireland was begun following a report from Chris Patten's policing commission, which made more than 175 recommendations.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Maggie Swarbrick:
"Police say ordinary people are paying the price for the continuing riots"
Read BBC News Online's full special report on policing reform in Northern Ireland

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OTHER SPECIAL REPORTS
See also:

27 Mar 02 | N Ireland
12 Sep 01 | N Ireland
04 Nov 01 | N Ireland
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