18/04/2011

'Crime Feedback' Promised By NI Cops

Northern Ireland's police are making a set of promises this week that may prove to be hard to keep in practice.

In a ground-breajing initiative, a new set of commitments has been put forward by PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott to help increase accountability.

He said that leaflets outlining the proposals would be delivered to around 750,000 households across Northern Ireland over the coming weeks explaining what people can expect from the police.

One move - something that has often been promised at local community/policing meetings but not delivered - will be 'feedback' when those affected by crime or who have simply reported incidents will be phoned and asked to assess the way their case was handled.

The Chief Constable will use this data from the public on how they were treated to aid or block officers' promotion hopes, as the information collected will be used in future job interviews.

Emergency calls will be picked up by an operator within seconds - with a promise of a caller being spoken to within 10 seconds - again an easy pledge to make but one that will prove less practical when call volumes are high.

As well as keeping people updated with the progress of investigations, key community priorities, such as tackling anti-social behaviour - again a major point of debate in community policing meetings - are being promised to receive priority attention.

"We are setting standards in relation to neighbourhood policing, what people can expect when they phone the police for help, our desire to make sure all victims of crime are kept updated," Matt Baggott said.

On the new officer appraisal system, which will see around 9,000 people called, he said this will come into operation this autumn.

"When people want to move on in their career, whether that's a promotion or anything else, one of the fundamental questions they will be asked is: what did the public think of you?" Mr Baggott explained.

Mr Baggott said the pledges represent a significant change and that he had decided to publish them because his career had shown the method worked.

With most communities reporting problems with 'youths causing annoyance' otherwise known as anti-social social behaviour, one area has meanwhile successfully tackled the issue with a fall of almost a third in part of Co Down.

The success rate is being put down to a unique unit set-up in Newtownards police station.

The Ards anti-social behaviour team is employed by Ards Council and respond to calls from concerned residents.

The civilian team works two shifts a week and every weekend and liaise with the police.

Such problems are widespread however and the SDLP South Antrim Assembly candidate, Thomas Burns, has called for a greater police presence at the Rathenraw estate in Antrim following disturbances there last weekend.

Mr Burns said there were concerns that tensions were allowed to run high.

"I condemn the latest violence and call for greater police presence in the area. There has been a concern from some residents that police have turned a blind eye to tension in the area.

"I urge the local community to work with the police in a bid to ease tensions. We cannot have any more disturbances like this because it's doing nothing for the area and is affecting the lives of vast majority of good people here," he said.

See: PSNI Refute 'Community Policing Vacuum'

See: Anti-Social Behaviour Plagues NI

See: Glengormley Trouble Slammed

See: Politicians Shun Community Policing Meeting

(BMcC/GK)

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