Ford announced cash boost for community groups

Justice Minister David Ford has allocated almost £800,000 to local communities, including Ballymoney, to help fight crime and the fear of crime.

The funding comes from assets seized from criminals following an agreement David Ford secured with the Home Office.

The Minister made the announcement as he took part in an innovative youth diversionary programme developed by Strabane Community Safety Partnership (CSP).

Cage Soccer is a mobile arena that can be transported and deployed where needed within the community. Funding from the confiscation of criminal assets will enable Strabane CSP to develop Cage Soccer further and for the project to be rolled out to Antrim, Ballymoney, Cookstown, Derry, Omagh and Limavady,

Speaking at the announcement at Parliament Buildings, David Ford said: “Organised criminals are in the business of making as much money as possible without sparing a thought for who they harm along the way. The recovery of criminal assets hits them where it hurts – in their pockets.

“Recovering criminal assets is an important focus of the Organised Crime Task Force’s work and to reinvest those ill-gotten gains back into the community helps tackle crime and the fear of crime.”

Previously the Home Office retained 50% of all criminal assets recovered but following devolution, Justice Minister David Ford has negotiated this money for Northern Ireland. The other 50% continues to be distributed to agencies responsible for the recovery of the assets.

He said: “I have lobbied to ensure this extra money remains in Northern Ireland and is targeted at preventing crime and the fear of crime.

“Obviously it is difficult to predict the level of funding that will be available in the future given changes year to year of assets recovered, but I am optimistic that there will be a general increase in funding in coming years.”

The Minister used the event at Parliament Buildings to announce the first tranche of funding. A range of projects have benefited. They include programmes to reduce anti-social behaviour, support for older people and victims of domestic violence as well as initiatives to prevent rural crime and to educate young people about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

Commenting on the Cage Soccer initiative which the Minister took part in, David Ford said: “This is an excellent project that the young people clearly enjoy. To date some 1,600 young people have participated in Strabane Cage Soccer.

“I want to commend Strabane CSP and their partners for developing this scheme. I very much hope the other Partnerships who can now introduce the scheme due to this funding enjoy the same success.”