NORTH Antrim MLA Paul Frew who is Chairman of the Agricultural and Rural Development in Stormont has stressed the need for the police to do more on rural theft and to halt what is being perceived as a step by step withdrawal of rural Northern Ireland.
Mr. Frew stated that he has always been good at measuring the mood of the people and says he is very worried that what used to be concern and frustration, around the inability to combat rural theft, has now turned to palpable anger.
Mr. Frew said: “People are at their wits end. Some who attended a Pact meeting reported that in the recent past they had been broken into up to three or four times and they have not seen justice or have not had their machinery or livestock returned, Further to that some have alleged they had a terrible experience when dealing with the PSNI and it just isn’t good enough, he said.
Mr. Frew went on: “There is no doubt that this is mostly organised crime.
“I am very concerned to hear at first hand the mobilising of groups of farmers who feel the need to have to patrol their country roads at night in the hope of stopping or catching people who are involved.
“There is so much anger about this that I have been told that they will take the law into their own hands and they will shoot someone if they feel their life is under threat or their property is being taken.
“This has reached a critical head and although I have to be measured in how I report this. I fear and it is real fear that someone will be shot, either injured or killed, whether it be the suspected villain or the innocent farmer or rural dweller.
“I have applied pressure where I can and I have assisted the police on this issue. I even chaired an event on Rural crime recently at the request of the local police commanders but when we see decisions being taken that reduces the number of police officers serving the rural parts of our country and when we hear that police commanders are going to move a TSG from Portglenone to Ballymoney town and when we hear that Portglenone police station, Broughshane police station, Bushmills and Cushendall are earmarked for closure then you could argue very strongly that the PSNI are withdrawing or retreating from the countryside.
“I don’t expect to see police officers down every country road and lane but I do expect rural dwellers to receive the same service as urban dwellers whether that be response times, investigations, follow up calls, or community policing and we have not seen that parity for some time now.
“I would appeal to everyone to attend the forthcoming consultation meetings on the station closures to express their frustration at policing at present.”