The PSNI’s response to the wave of organised violence which swept into Larne on Sunday is proof that the current policing model for the borough is a failure, local councillors have claimed.
Last year, the PSNI introduced Service First, a new model which brought about a raft of reforms to how police operate.
Since the changes were first announced, local elected representatives have continually decried the new system, which saw the relocation of Larne’s 999 emergency response team to Ballymena.
Prior to the shocking events of Sunday – which saw up to 100 men attack homes in the Ferris Park and Knockdhu Park areas of the town – Larne Borough Council had issued a formal complaint to the Policing Board over what it perceived as a lack of PSNI resources in the borough.
And at Monday night’s council meeting in Smiley Buildings, members unanimously agreed to write to Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton to convey their displeasure with the current system, and urged the PSNI to revisit its policy.
Cllr Gregg McKeen said: “The events of Sunday are a prime example of why Service First is a disgrace.”
“The perpetrators of the attacks knew about the lack of police resources on the ground in Larne and knew they could come in and get out again.
“I don’t believe this current model of policing is working and last night shows the failures of centralising the response team.
“I propose we write to the Assistant Chief Constable and say that we are still not happy.”
Party colleague Drew Niblock seconded the proposal and added: “Service First looks good on paper, but it doesn’t work for the geographical situation in Larne. It needs to be revisited.”
TUV member Ald Jack McKee said the attacks at the weekend “reinforce what we have been saying all along”.
He added: “Policing in Larne has been depleted and they (the PSNI) were caught on the hop last night.
“The people of Larne are being poorly served by the Service First scheme.”
Ulster Unionist representative and chairman of Larne PCSP, Cllr Mark McKinty felt confidence in policing has been “dented” by the implementation of the new operational structure.
Fellow UUP member Ald Roy Beggs added: “There needs to be a complete review of this policy.”
SDLP member Cllr Martin Wilson claimed there was “a crisis in policing in Larne” and said the PSNI “need to take the council’s concerns seriously”.
And Sinn Fein representative James McKeown urged the council to put forward a “forceful response that we are not happy with the current policing arrangements”.
He added: “There also needs to be a real message from this council that the kind of behaviour which took place on Sunday will not be tolerated.”
Mr McKeown described the perpetrators of the attacks as “thugs” and added: “They see themselves as untouchable and think they have some sort of a mandate.”
Alliance member Cllr Gerardine Mulvenna “wholeheartedly” condemned the attacks, which she branded “cowardly and totally lawless”.
She added: “What concerns me is that it was allowed to happen and no one was arrested.
“I will be asking senior police officers what lessons they have learned from this incident.”
The council’s letter to the Assistant Chief Constable will also outline elected members’ displeasure at what they view as a lack of consultation regarding the implementation of Service First.