11/04/2006

Mounted police patrols return to Belfast streets

Mounted police patrols have today trotted back onto the streets of Belfast in a move to tackle crime in the city.

The officers on horseback will patrol areas in Belfast, Castlereagh and Lisburn and will concentrate on tackling many different types of crime throughout these areas.

Two PSNI officers have been trained in Dublin as mounted officers and the horses are on loan from the Garda Siochana for the two days of the trial.

However, over the next few months two horses from the Garda's mounted unit will come to Northern Ireland for one week at a time and the two police riders will be given a full range of mounted patrol duties to carry out.

Assistant Chief Constable Roy Toner said that the Police Service is continually looking at alternative ways to police towns and cities, to help provide a normal and highly visible policing service.

He said: "There is evidence that mounted patrols, if properly tasked and deployed, can achieve positive results in crime reduction and detection. Other areas of value would include, traffic and crowd control, searches and community relations.

"The success of the patrols will be evaluated and we are very grateful to the Garda for their support and are looking forward to the opportunity of assessing the benefits for our service."

However, DUP councillor and Chairman of Castlereagh district policing partnership, Jimmy Spratt, has today said that the mounted police patrols were a "stunt."

He added that the move was a ridiculous initiative and that he, along with other members of the district policing partnership were appalled at the police force even suggesting such a feat.

Mounted patrols are common in Great Britain with 17 forces having their own mounted unit. The Metropolitan police has the largest unit with 127 horses, Greater Manchester has 47, Strathclyde has 24 while Lancaster has 19.

Police riders were removed from Northern Ireland 80-years ago and returned briefly to the province in December 2004.

(EF/SP)

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