Politicians are calling for action to prevent Larne turning into the ‘Wild West’ in the wake of a recent crimewave including two hatchet attacks.
The incidents saw two homes at Seahill Road and Fleet Street attacked by masked men wielding hatchets who caused criminal damage, smashing windows and damaging doors.
Two couples in their twenties, one of whom had a young son in the house at the time, escaped injury but criminal damage was caused to the inside of the Fleet Street home. A car was later found burnt out at Walnut Avenue.
Police are treating the Fleet Street attack as a sectarian hate crime, and are still working to establish a motive for the Seahill Road incident. They are also seeking to establish if the incidents are are linked.
The hatchet attacks follow a spate of violence in Larne including an armed robbery at Ballygally Castle hotel and the ramming of three police vehicles by a car at the weekend.
It also follows the discovery of a “significant amount of terrorist material” including explosive devices, component parts for explosives, chemicals for use in bomb making, ammunition and a firearm, by police at 12 separate locations in the Larne area during recent terrorism-related searches.
DUP MLA Gordon Lyons admitted Larne is getting “a bit of a reputation,” and said that he, MP Sammy Wilson and local councillors would be meeting with police to discuss the situation.
“We need to make sure that Larne doesn’t turn into the Wild West,” he told the Times.
“I don’t think we are at that stage yet but many people might think it is beginning to get that way.
“The scourge of crime is something I want to see eradicated, Larne has been in the news recently for the wrong reasons and it does nothing the help the reputation of the town.
“We want to meet with police to find out how people are dealing with these incidents, whether they are connected, what police can do and if they have sufficient resources.
“Overall crime has gone down over the last few years so this may be a spate rather than a long-term increase.”
Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson said he hoped that Larne was “not getting a reputation as a no-go area.”
“It is very difficult but we need to get the message through to the perpetrators of these incidents through neighbours, community groups and churches that enough is enough and they are damaging the reputation or our town and community,” he stated.
“The whole community suffers along with those who are the direct victims.
“I certainly hope that there isn’t starting to be a gangland culture in Larne.”
Sinn Féin MLA Olvier McMullan condemned those responsible for the hatchet attacks and called on the PNSI to dedicate additional resources into the Larne area.
“Attacks of this nature are becoming all too prevalent in Larne,” he stated.
“There is a palpable fear within the local community as these attacks continue.
“There is a need to address this violence and intimidation as it cannot be allowed to continue at these levels.