PSNI targets crime wave with arrests in greater Belfast area


More than 100 police officers were continuing an operation last night against criminals in Belfast; Bangor, Co Down; and Lisburn, Co Antrim. Twelve people have so far been arrested, and £3,000 sterling worth of cannabis has been recovered.

The first stage of the operation began early yesterday when officers searched 21 premises and arrested the first nine detainees. They are expected to appear in court. Police said they were also searching for stolen goods and weapons.

The operation was in response to growing crimes against businesses, especially in south Belfast where there has been a spate of armed robberies, burglaries and crimes involving cars.

According to Det Chief Insp Alan Mains, the operation had been planned well in advance. "Criminal intelligence and crime analysts have been involved," he said.

The operation was welcomed by the South Belfast MP, the Rev Martin Smyth. He said that recently released crime statistics were disturbing. "South Belfast has the highest number of recorded crimes. It comes close to the bottom with regards to the percentage of crimes cleared. Police resources must be increased to cut out the cancer of crime which has taken a widespread hold throughout south Belfast," Mr Smyth said.

Figures produced by the Police Service of Northern Ireland show that of more than 900 armed robberies in Northern Ireland more than a third were carried out in south Belfast.

Ms Carmel Hanna, a South Belfast Assembly member and member of the North's Executive, said: "There is clearly a need for the police to do more to address the problem, and I believe community policing should be seriously considered. South Belfast is perceived as a reasonably affluent area and easy picking for thieves."

The Women's Coalition Assembly member for the area, Ms Monica McWilliams, called for a co-ordinated approach.

"Today we have seen a large-scale operation to deal with some recent criminal activity and it has resulted in several searches and arrests. The police proactive response will be welcomed by those who have been on the receiving end of crime," she said.

"The community, local politicians, schools and youth groups have a vital role to play in education, raising awareness of crime prevention and assisting the Police Service to make our communities safe."

The police action was also welcomed by the Alliance Party.