POLITICIANS are at odds over the scale of crime in Larne.
While Sinn Fein Assemblyman Oliver McMullan this week revealed he will seek a meeting with PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott to discuss what Mr McMullan calls “mob rule” and a police force “powerless to combat it”, the DUP MP for the area, Sammy Wilson, maintained that the perception of “a town which is experiencing rampant breakdown of law and order in no way reflects life in Larne”.
Both men were speaking as the PSNI’s end-of-year statistics for 2011-12 revealed the lowest Northern Ireland crime level since 1998.
There was a 1.6 per cent overall decrease and H District - which incorporates Larne, Coleraine, Ballymoney, Moyle and Ballymena - was the only sector where crime rose, by 0.5 per cent.
Mr McMullan reiterated his claim that loyalist paramilitaries are behind a “high level of criminality” in Larne.
He said drug dealing, punishments beatings, intimidation and shootings were “some of the regular events in the crime calendar”, adding; “Yet the PSNI seem powerless or unwilling to address the problems”.
The MLA said: “I have met with the PSNI on numerous occasions now and have been given expectations that this crime wave would be tackled.
“So far I have kept the contents of these meetings private in a hope that these criminals would be tackled, but these promises have not been met and I believe that this is due to the fact that the unionist paramilitaries are involved in the majority of the these crimes.”
Mr McMullan spoke of the nationalist and business communities “living in fear” and declared: “I will now bring this to the attention of the Chief Constable as I have a duty on behalf of the residents of Larne to ensure that the concerns of the public are addressed by the PSNI.
“It is now time I believe that there is a review of the policing of Larne by someone outside the district. This will have the real benefit of allowing a fresh and independent look at the criminal activities in Larne.”
MP and Stormont Finance Minister Sammy Wilson said Mr McMullan’s “highly political attack on the police clearly harks back to the old-style Sinn Fein dislike of the police given the criminal activities that this party at one time supported and perpetrated”.
He added: “The real danger, and the one which I warned about when Oliver McMullan was elected, was that his brand of Sinn Fein politics wants to take us back to the past rather than give us hope for the future.
“Crime statistics for the Larne area are some of the lowest of any place in Northern Ireland, but that is not to say that in the town there is no crime or that there are no hardcore criminals who must be removed.
“But a town which is experiencing rampant breakdown of law and order in no way reflects life in Larne.”
Mr Wilson acknowledged: “I do believe that the police need to be more effective in dealing with hardcore criminals in the town and indeed I have had a number of discussions along with traders, farmers and community workers to discuss the policing of the area and things that the police ought to be doing.
“The one thing I do know is that there will be no toleration from politicians or the police of paramilitary-organised crime. However, if criminality is to be tackled it requires cooperation between citizens and politicians with the police, not politically motivated carping.
“I know, because I speak to them on a regular basis, that all the victims of crime and other members of the public want to see the police doing more and believe that with a different deployment of their efforts targeting the known criminals in the town we can get better results in the future.
“Ironically, it is the low level of crime statistics which is making it difficult for the police to bid for extra resources for places like Larne,” the MP explained.