H District’s Chief Superintendent, Raymond Murray, has reassured the Ballymoney and Ballycastle community that while the budget situation is “difficult”, the local police service is ‘far from broken”.
The statement comes following the warning by Chief Constable that severe budget cuts to the police in Northern Ireland will reduce it to a blue light service focused more on reacting to crime than preventing it.
George Hamilton said the need to cut more than £50 million off his spending in the next six months had left the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in a “virtually impossible position” and cautioned that he could not guarantee the organisation would not bust its budget.
The police have been asked to shoulder a 7% cut through to next April as a consequence of the funding crisis that is in danger of consuming the Stormont Executive.
However, in a meeting with the Ballymoney and Moyle Times, Chief Superintendent Murray reassured the community that his officers would continue to provide the ‘best possible service’ in local areas.
He explained: ”As a whole the police service has been asked to find 51.4m by the end of the year - and next year another 10/15% further savings have to be found.
“Last month alone we, H District, had to find over £400,000 savings. These cuts are obviously difficult however at the minute we are extremely satisfied with how we use the significant resources that we have .
“The community is obviously going to notice a difference in relation to these cuts, however based on recent assessments H District is continuing to perform well. Confidence in the police service is up by 7.1% on last year and in our call back service we had 100% success rate.
“H District is a massive area, and we are still reaching 75% of 999 emergency calls, where there is a possible life at risk, in 15 minutes. We also have a 86% response rate to priority calls within 60 minutes. So there is a huge amount of good police work going on.”
Outlining how the police chief plans to address the cuts efficiently to ensure minimum impact on the local community, he continued: “We will try to get our resources to areas of ‘threat, risk and harm’. Officers meet formally twice a day to discuss where these incidents are and where they should be deployed to have the maximum impact.
“Before we would have given officers overtime but we can’t do that now. It’s all about officers being flexible, twisting and turning constantly to ensure that the community receive the best possible service. For example if two officers are in Cloughmills and we have an incident of ‘threat, risk and harm’ in Ballymoney then we relocate those officers. It’s a case of prioritising, twisting and turning to meet the biggest dangers we have throughout the day.
“But on any ‘normal day’ officers will continue to carry out their daily routines of community and neighbourhood policing.”
Dispelling the rumours of a current ‘recruitment freeze’ and reduction in officers, the police chief stated: “We have five new starts this week, plus another 10 coming. This means that hopefully over the next three months, maybe even before Christmas, we will have another 15/20 officers in H District. This is obviously good news and it’s always great to get new blood into the service.
“Things are obviously going to be difficult but what we face is not impossible. All our officers understand the difficulties and are willing to show flexibility, across all departments and ranks, to exploit every opportunity to catch the criminals affecting our local community. Nothing is left to chance and we will work all the time to keep people safe and detect offenders.
“We need to keep positive and remember that the PSNI is not broken, times are just difficult. I want to reassure the local community that we are, and will continue, to do a lot of good work and get good catches. We will constantly be looking at our strategy and despite difficult decisions ahead our concern right now it to keep doing what we are doing and doing it right.”