Derry’s new police chief has vowed to crack down on republican vigilante group RAAD.
In his first interview since taking up the post, Foyle Area Commander, Chief Inspector Garry Eaton, said tackling RAAD is a “key challenge” for police in Derry.
Chief Inspector Eaton added that “community assistance” would be vital in the battle against illegal drugs supply and vigilantism. “We’ve got to ensure that we police drugs and drugs offences and ensure we show the community that that is our role and solely our role.” He added that it was his team’s job to ensure that no vigilante elements are given any opportunity “to step in” and say the police are not doing their jobs properly.
“If we can make sure we are at the forefront of tackling drugs in the city and in Foyle, then it stifles these people.”
He added: “We need information, people need the confidence that when they give us information we act on it sensitively and act on it as soon as we can so we start taking out those people who might be inclined to be involved with RAAD.”
Two weeks after taking the reins from then Acting Chief Inspector Jon Burrows, CI Eaton is still getting to know the city. But the 45 year-old Birmingham native - who has spent 25 years in policing, including a long spell in the London Metropolitan Police and more recently in the PSNI Major Investigations Team - is looking forward to the “challenge” that Derry presents.
“All of us like a challenge in our day to day work and certainly that is what attracted me here.”
And the most challenging task of all will no doubt be combating the threat from dissident republican bombers. The PSNI in Derry will be on high alert to an increased threat of attack with the UK City of Culture 2013 fast approaching.
“This city has seen more than its fair share of dissident incidents and bombs and threats and hoaxes - we want people to go about their everyday business free from the fear and free from their lives and businesses being disrupted by that,” he said.
“Derry will have a national profile, if not an international profile [as City of Culture] and I would say they [paramilitaries] are not going to stop the city going in the direction it wants to go in - they are absolutely not.” He said there was an obvious and “overwhelming sense of positivity” in the city about 2013, adding that terrorists “will not be allowed” to destroy the occasion.
CI Eaton outlined that his priorities in Derry will directly reflect those set down by the people of the city in the local policing plan. “Clearly those targets are what the communities want us to delivery in terms of policing,” he said. He added that “engaging with the community and increasing confidence” are among his top aims as the new area commander.
However, since joining the Derry team, the new chief has been faced with something of a wave of serious crime including two murders and a rape in the city in recent days. This is something he has a sound track record in handling as a Detective Chief Inspector in the Major Investigations Team. But he said murder and rape were the “type of crimes we just don’t want to see” in his new city.