Police have rejected claims that they turn a blind eye to the criminal activities of paramilitary gangs in the Larne area.
The PSNI maintained that it has hit the criminals where it hurts with action against drugs, fraud and money laundering.
Larne commander, Chief Insp Catherine Magee’s robust response was in answer to questions posed by the Larne Times on behalf of the author of a letter to the editor.
The correspondent articulated views held by many people in Larne when he referred to “bully boy tactics” by paramilitaries “who in the last six months have been running amok round the town: shootings, petrol bombings, beatings – the list goes on”.
The author – who did not wish to be identified – accused Larne police of failing to state publicly that loyalist paramilitaries were responsible, for fear of “rocking the peace process boat”.
Chief Magee replied: “The reality is that Larne, like many towns across Northern Ireland, faces challenges from organised criminal gangs, often gangs with paramilitary connections.
“Police in Larne have had significant recent successes in tackling crime and disrupting the activities of organised criminal gangs. Since the start of 2014 already we have dismantled drugs factories, questioned multiple individuals under anti-terrorism legislation and charged people with fraud and money laundering offences.”
She added: “It can be difficult to get quick wins against organised criminal gangs. It takes time and resources to break them and our investigations can be complex and often require detailed analysis ... But I can assure you that police provide a protective 24/7 service for the people of Larne and we have the investigative expertise to tackle these gangs, however complex the investigation.”
Chief Magee stressed: “Tackling organised criminality also requires the support of the public. We need information from communities on suspected criminal activities locally. The small piece of information that you call police or Crimestoppers with may be the missing link in building a case and bringing criminals before the courts. Criminal gangs often target the most vulnerable in the community through drug dealing, intimidation or money lending.We can stand against them by working together with communities telling us what is happening around them.”
The commander urged anyone with concerns to speak to their neighbourhood policing team; call police on 0845 600 8000; or give information anonymously through the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111; engage with local police on Facebook and twitter; or register for the text alert system by calling 0845 600 8000.