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Sinn Féin meets PSNI on Anti-Social Crime in west Belfast

18 May, 2010 - by Pat Sheehan

Sinn Féin west Belfast MP Gerry Adams and a delegation, including Fra McCann MLA, Councillor Marie Cush and representatives from the west Belfast Community Safety Forum, this morning met senior PSNI officers in Parliament Buildings, including Alastair Finlay, ACC Belfast region of the PSNI; Mark Hamilton, PSNI chief Supt for North & West Belfast; and
Emma Mooney, PSNI chief inspector for west Belfast, to discuss the recent murder of Seamus Fox and the PSNI response to this.

Gerry Adams asked for this meeting with the PSNI in order to review recent developments in the aftermath of Seamus Fox’s murder and to discuss the development of a policing strategy to curtail violent crime and counter anti-social hotspots in west Belfast. Also on the agenda was the decision by the PSNI to scrap the auto-crime unit.

Speaking afterward Mr. Adams described the meeting as “a very frank but very good meeting”. Mr. Adams said:

“The context of the meeting is around the ongoing effort to get civic and community policing embedded in the new policing dispensation and delivering for citizens.

West Belfast is a lawful place. The vast majority of west Belfast people get on about their lives, look after their neighbours and are good constructive citizens.

There are, as there are throughout the city, criminal elements and there is anti-social crime.

This came to a climax recently with the savage murder of Seamus Fox.

So, in our discussion with the PSNI we dealt with the issue of hotspots, including in areas like St. James, Beechmount, Lower Suffolk and Colin areas and parts of the lower Falls.

We want the PSNI to work with us, with community organisations, with the Probationary Service, with the PPS to ensure that there is a joined up integrated approach.

We are also concerned about the lack of consultation around the scrapping of the Auto Crime Unit and the redeployment of that team.

There is also a concern at the lack of funding going into some of these areas and I have sought a meeting with the Justice Minister to discuss this issue.

The meeting was a very frank but good meeting. We have set out a detailed programme of work to follow through over the next month. And we will be meeting in this format again shortly after that.

We want to see a joined up approach for dealing with these very serious issues and this rolled out across the city.

This will see more police officers on the street but they must be working in tandem with the local community.” CRÍOCH

Note to Editor:

The west Belfast Community Safety Forum, which was formed two years ago, has a very good strategy for dealing with crime.

Last year the Criminal Justice Inspectorate, the independent oversights body, commended the work of the Forum and its strategy and action plan as the template for how hotspots and anti-community problems should be tackled.

On Wednesday 25th November 2009, the report of the Criminal Justice Inspectorate was ‘laid before’ the British parliament by the British Secretary of State, and the following day the report was released to the public. That report is extremely positive and highlights the comparative successes and strengths of the Forum, by contrast to existing community safety arrangements and projects promoted by the Council and NIO.

Some of the key conclusions of that report were as follows:
- “on the basis of the evidence examined Inspectors’ assessment is the that the WBCSF has made a positive contribution to the delivery of a safer community in west Belfast.” (para.4.1)
- “…the levels of success delivered by the Forum was always going to come with a price tag..” (para.4.2)
- “Inspectors assess lessons can be learned from the experience of the WBCSF that can be used effectively elsewhere.” (para.4.3)
- “several of the agencies…were prepared to declare to Inspectors their preference was for how the WBCSF conducts itself and that it was, in their view, a much more effective body.”(para 4.4)
- “Inspectors understand that the Forum has helped to create the space where difficult questions can be asked…”(para 4.8)
However thus far the Forum and its strategy have been denied the funding and resources to make it work.

Sinn Féin has requested an urgent meeting with the Minister for Justice to discuss this issue.
In April 2010, Seamus Fox was murdered on his way home. He passed a gang which had started a fire at the bridge on Suffolk Road. The incident had already been reported to the PSNI at Woodbourne by community safety wardens deployed in the area on the same night that Seamus Fox was murdered. The wardens had been told that the PSNI would respond. They never did, despite the fact that there were available patrols. One person has been charged with Mr Fox murder and another member of the gang is providing evidence / witness testimony against his peer.

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