A spate of serious crimes in the Banbridge area in recent weeks has sparked calls for the reopening of the town’s police station on a full-time basis.
Following a number of high-profile incidents over the past few weeks, including burglaries, arson attacks and drug-related crimes, members of the public and politicians have called for more policing resources to be put into the area.
Budgetary constraints within the PSNI have led to changes and cuts to services at the Castlewellan Road barracks over recent years, including reduced opening hours, changes to local policing and the use of teams of officers based in Lurgan and Armagh.
But following recent burglaries, one of which occurred at the home of a man aged in his 80s and another in which an eight-year-old girl was among the victims, a number of local people have taken to social media to call on the PSNI to direct more resources towards Banbridge, including reopening the town’s police station full-time.
Responding to public concerns about crime in the area, local UUP Councillor Glenn Barr said he and his party colleagues have requested an urgent meeting with senior PSNI personnel to discuss the need for more police resources in the town.
“The local population needs reassurance and a full-time working police station, with officers actually based in Banbridge Police Station, would go a long way towards providing that assurance,” he commented.
“I am also urging people to remain vigilant and to look out for their neighbours and to report anything suspicious to the PSNI as soon as possible on 101, or in the case of an emergency 999.”
While not going as far as calling for the reopening of the station on a full-time basis, Upper Bann MLA Carla Lockhart believes Neighbourhood Policing Teams should be operational from Banbridge Station.
“In recent days Banbridge has made the headlines for the wrong reasons, with drugs, arson, burglaries and attacks on householders. This is a worrying trend and one that needs addressed,” she said.
Having met with senior police officers last week to lobby for additional resources for the area, the DUP representative added: “I met with the PSNI concerning the increase in crime, drugs and general unrest. I highlighted the fact that many of these incidents had been high profile and received media attention. I raised the fact that there was a perceived increase in drugs misuse, burglaries and arson.
“We need more police presence around the area and I reiterated my call for the return of Neighbourhood Policing Teams to the town of Banbridge, operational from the police station.
“When I compare Banbridge to other areas I represent I do believe there is a lack of intelligence gathering by PSNI and boots on the ground. There is a disconnect with the local people which needs to be re-established and whilst this will not stop crime it will assist in crime prevention and help when seeking recourse with the people who involve themselves in this type of activity.
“I have asked for the situation to be looked at and will be meeting the PSNI regularly to assess the statistics and to look at what other measures can be put in place. I will also be actively promoting the Neighbourhood Watch scheme. It is important that we are all the eye and ears on the ground and feed into the PSNI any suspicious activity.”
Responding to the concerns about policing in the area, Chief Inspector Jon Burrows said: “Local Policing Teams within the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon area are based in Lurgan and Armagh. LPTs cover the whole Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council area. They do not simply attend calls but build up an enhanced knowledge of the areas they serve in through engagement with community representatives, local clergy, principals of schools and other key figures. The LPTs are multi-functional and deliver core policing on a daily basis across the whole council area.
“Residents throughout Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon can rest assured that police are available to them 24/7 and continue to patrol and provide a first class policing presence in their area.
“I would encourage any member of the public or elected representative with concerns about policing in their area to contact us on 101 to discuss the matter further.”