Police this week roundly rejected claims they were in any way conspicuous by their absence in Dromore.
Claims that “local thugs” felt free to run wild in the area were levelled following a weekend fire at a property in the town.
It’s understood three fire appliances attended the scene of the early morning fire - which police are treating as suspicious - at Bignian View Park on Saturday.
Locals report the owner of the building lives at another address and the incident has given rise to fears that a similar fate may await a number of other likewise vacant properties in the area.
“There’s no sign of police in the area,” said one man, who did not want to be named.
“There’s been no police in the area since the local station closed; you only see them just driving through Dromore.
“All the local thugs know that there’s no police about and they’re running wild about Dromore.
“That’s one of the reasons you had people climbing the viaduct and throwing stones; they knew they wouldn’t be caught.”
(The Leader reported in late July that youths had been seen throwing stones from the top of Dromore viaduct, prompting a police warning about the possible consequences and an appeal to parents to make sure they knew where their children were and what they were doing).
In a statement issued following this weekend’s fire, police said: “At 8.44am on Saturday, 19 September, police received a report of a fire at a derelict house. NIFRS attended and dealt with the fire.
“The fire is being treated as suspicious and police would like to hear from anyone who has information which may assist our investigation. They can be contacted on 101, quoting ref: 313 190915.”
Answering claims that police were absent from Dromore, Chief Inspector Davy Beck added: “It is completely inaccurate to say that police have not been in Dromore or that we simply ‘pass through’.
“Since Local Policing Teams have been introduced in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, there have been regular proactive patrols in Dromore, including antiburglary patrols and road safety patrols.
“If anyone has information about crime or antisocial behaviour they should contact us so that we can respond to this and target it accordingly.
“We can be contacted on 101.”