Top cop’s ‘sorry’ to crime victim

THE top cop in Moyle has apologised to a woman whose house was burgled after she slammed the PSNI’s response to the incident.

At a meeting of Moyle District Policing Partnership in Cushendall on Thursday the overall clearance rate of crime in the district from April to December 2010 was revealed to be 21.1% (116 incidents resolved).

This compared to 166 incidents or 22% ‘cleared’ for the same period in 2009.

There were 753 reports of crime in the nine month period in 2009 compared to 550 the following year.

Of those crimes 103 were burglaries, 64 of which were domestic burglaries in 2009 with 59 in 2010’s figures, 32 on domestic premises.

This equated to a reduction in overall burglaries of 42.7% and a 50% drop in domestic burglaries.

But the clearance rate provoked an angry response from a member of the public present at the meeting.

Of the burglaries committed in Moyle in the 2010 April to December period just 5.1% were ‘cleared’ (6.3% of domestic burglaries).

“I’m incensed to hear it’s so low,” said the disgruntled woman.

“I was the victim of burglary myself last year.

“As far as I was concerned I was totally ignored.

“They broke in when I was asleep.

“There were two witnesses and I had to call (police) four times to get them to go and interview them. That’s why you can’t solve the crimes.

“It has to be followed through my local police. It was handled very badly.”

PSNI Area Commander John Magill replied: “You are absolutely right to flag it up.

“We are paid to provide a service to the community and if we are not doing it right we have to know about it.

“It is very important that anyone who has contacted the police and reported a crime should be getting a five star service.”

The member of the public claimed it was five weeks before the two witnesses were approached by police.

“It’s ironic when police want people to come forward and you have a couple of witnesses willing to give statements and no-one came to see them,” said the burglary victim.

“That’s not something I am going to defend. It’s indefensible,” replied AC Magill.

He added: “The community need a first class service, not some shambles coming out to address a situation.

“There is no room for a lacklustre attitude.”

Chair of the DPP, Willie Graham, said: “This was shoddy policing. It’s not good enough.”

DPP member and local councillor Robert McIlroy said: “We within the DPP work very hard to build confidence.

“What we have heard doesn’t do anything for confidence.

“If the Chief Inspector doesn’t know about this lady’s situation, why doesn’t he know?

“Are we in this blame game?”

“It would be impossible for me to monitor every incident in Moyle,” replied AC Magill.

“That investigation wasn’t handled well and I’m sorry about that.”

Inspector Bryan Hume said he had contacted CID regarding the incident and a call-out had occurred the next day.

AC Magill said he believed 40% of all burglaries in the Moyle area resulted from people leaving doors and windows unlocked.

He said it was imperative for residents and property owners to ensure they secured their premises.

He said another major hurdle faced by police when attempting to solve burglaries is that criminals are much more “forensically aware” making it difficult for officers to collect evidence for a successful detection and prosecution.

“We have to keep working at it to push the clearance level up,” he said.

“Across the country the clearance rate for burglary is not great either.”

From April to December in 2009 there were 520 reports of incidents of anti-social behaviour, 237 reports of criminal damage, 64 reports of domestic burglaries and 39 reports of non-domestic burglaries.

This compared to 2010 figures for the nine month period of 453 reports of anti-social behaviour, 178 of criminal damage, 32 of domestic burglaries, and 26 of non-domestic burglaries.

Local resident Colum Thompson suggested to police the decline in reported incidents could be due to the poor clearance rate impacting on the public’s confidence in the service.

AC Magill said it may be the case people do not report very minor incidents of criminal damage for example, but that burglary was something which tended to be brought to the police’s attention.

“Someone wrote on my fence recently and I went out and just painted it over,” said AC Magill.

“But if somebody burgled my home I would have reported it to police.

“I don’t think the low clearance rate for burglary would deter people from reporting it.

“For some other crimes, perhaps criminal damage or anti-social behaviour (that could be the case) but burglary and assaults have a higher report rate.

“I think it comes down to how the crime has impacted on the individual.

“The bottom line is no-one wants to be the victim of crime and we don’t want people to be victims of crime.

“A clearance rate of 5/6% is not good enough. Definitely not.”

Asked where he believed those committing crimes in Moyle where from, AC Magill said it was most likely a combination of local criminals and outsiders.

“I think it is impossible to go into an accurate break down,” added Insp Hume.

Insp Hume said police were able to evaluate incidents and assess whether the perpetrators were strangers or based in Moyle.

He said in an attempt to put off would-be criminals from operating in Moyle, police had stepped up prevention measures such as stopping vehicles coming into the town and quizzing people on their movements.

“It makes them realise there is no point coming into area to commit crimes as they will get caught.

“We are pushing them elsewhere.”

AC Magill said clearance rates could also be affected by the number of incidents dealt with my ‘discretionary disposals’ when the matter is resolved without the need for criminal proceedings.

“The good thing about discretionary disposals is that victims of crimes are getting a very quick turnaround and not having to wait until the matter goes through the courts,” he said.