‘Overtime ban will not affect response times’, says police chief

'H' District Commander, Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray.
'H' District Commander, Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray.

Police chiefs are meeting twice a day to ensure front line services are maintained in H District, despite swingeing budget cuts.

The PSNI has been told to find saving totalling £50 million and in H District – which extends from Larne to Carrickfergus, Ballymena, Moyle, Ballymoney and Coleraine – Chief Supt Raymond Murray says that to date he has identified around £400,000 in cuts.

All districts are contributing to policing the Twaddell Avenue protest, and always with an eye on the the dissident republican threat. With police overtime now a last resort, rather than the norm, officers are being transferred from other tasks to ensure that the front line (emergency response vehicles) can meet all demands.

Chief Supt Murray explained: “Overtime is one of our key expenditures. In the past, where there have been gaps because of public order commitments, leave or sickness, we have brought in overtime, but now we will not. Other police teams including neighbourhood officers and crime team members will be drafted in to response cars, because that is the part of the business that absolutely has to be staffed.”

Commander Murray added: “The reassurance I would give is that we will continue to provide a good level of service to the public.

“Two times a day, the senior officers meet and look at the current state of the district and assess the current level of crime risk to the community, and we put our resources in to that to confront any threat that is there and I think that we are doing it successfully.”

The commander identified a raid on a suspected cannabis farm in Ballymena last week, and an arrest in connection with a suspected distraction burglary gang locally as examples of how service is being maintained.

He added that H District is continuing to meet targets on emergency response times (75 per cent within 15 minutes), with 86 per cent of calls deemed not to be immediately life-threatening being responded to by police within an hour.

He said he believed members of the public understood the need for budget cuts, adding that people were generally supportive.

Chief Supt Murray said that an independent survey found that in the last two months there was “a 100 per cent approval rating” on police responses.

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