Sunday, June 16, 2024
SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN CRIME LEVELS

SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN CRIME LEVELS

RECORDED crime levels rose significantly more in Newry, Mourne and Down than in any other district in Northern Ireland last year. PSNI figures released on Thursday showed that a local increase of 19 per cent was double that of the second highest rise – 9.5 per cent in Antrim and Newtownabbey – and more than triple the 6.3 average across all 11 policing districts in 2022. Comparatively, recorded crime went up by nine per cent in Fermanagh and Omagh, 8.9 per cent in Mid Ulster, 8.7 per cent in Ards and North Down, 8.3 per cent in both Belfast and Causeway Coast and Glens, and 2.4 per cent in Derry City and Strabane. Only three districts registered a drop – Lisburn and Castlereagh City (down 4.1 per cent), Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon (2.4 per cent) and Mid and East Antrim (1.1 per cent).

The figures showed that there were 10,030 crimes recorded in this district last year, which constituted a rise of 1,599 on the 2021 total of 8,431. Only Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon (10,224), Derry City and Strabane (11,173) and Belfast (34,317) had larger numbers of individual crimes being recorded. Crime categories that saw significant increases locally included violence against the person (up 24.6 per cent), theft offences (22.4 per cent) – the subcategory of shoplifting had a 44.1 per cent rise – drug offences (20.8 per cent), sexual offences (19.9 per cent), public order offences (10.3 per cent) and criminal damage (4.3 per cent). Last week’s PSNI statistical bulletin noted that pandemic lockdown measures had ‘had a substantial impact on the level of police recorded crime during 2020/21’, ensuring it had ‘the lowest crime level recorded since 1998/99’.

It added that, due to lockdown, ‘falls in the number of burglary offences, theft offences and, to a lesser extent, criminal damage offences were greater and more sustained than for other crime classifications’. The PSNI was contacted for comment on whether it felt there was any discernible and/or locally attributable reasons as to why the overall rise was much greater in Newry, Mourne and Down than anywhere else; however, it had not responded at the time of going to press. Separate figures on antisocial behaviour were also released by the PSNI last week, and they showed a 23.1 per cent drop in such incidents across Newry, Mourne and Down during 2022. Last year, a total of 4,120 antisocial behaviour incidents were recorded in this district by police, which was 1,236 less than the 5,356 recorded in 2021.

The number of such incidents dropped in every policing district, with the biggest fall in Fermanagh and Omagh (34.6 per cent) and the smallest in Belfast (19.6 per cent). The overall drop across Northern Ireland was 23.8 per cent. The police bulletin stated that the number of antisocial behaviour incidents have been trending downwards since 2006/07. ‘The introduction of lockdown measures and other restrictions relating to the Covid-19 pandemic led to a substantial increase in levels of antisocial behaviour during 2020/21,’ it read. ‘Restrictions have since been removed, and levels since the second half of 2021/22 have been more consistent with those seen previously.’ Last week, PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne warned that, due to an £80m funding shortfall, the force is set to shrink overall by March by 309 officers and 115 staff, with bigger shortfalls expected over the next three years.

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