After a few months in the job in Limavady, the borough’s new Area Commander Sam Donaldson says the Roe Valley town is like a lot of others across the North.
Chief Insp. Donaldson, who has been in the police for 17 years, was stationed in Derry before his move to Limavady. The 39-year-old has worked across five of the eight district command units, and admits he ”eats, breathes and sleeps” policing.
He says Limavady is a fairly normal town with all the usual issues, including under-age drinking, drugs, assaults and anti-social behaviour.
“Drugs is an issue in Limavady and are being dealt in our community and parents and teachers and youth and community workers need to be switched on to that, but we shouldn’t do Limavady a dis-service and make it sound like a drugs capital because that is not the case,” he says. “We have very dedicated officers here and we will continue to focus on dealers, but we need information, even the tiniest bit can help us lock up the people hurting our community.”
Limavady has roughly 60 frontline officers, spread across five response teams, rural and neighbourhood teams. They are the officers the public see on a daily basis while a number of other teams operate in Limavady and across G district as a whole. The officers have around 15 vehicles.
Chief. Insp Donaldson wants to make policing more visible to the public right across the borough, through foot and bike patrols and using the mobile police station.
“The more we do that the more we show that it’s normal, and I will never hide behind resources, but we have to make sure we have the right resources deployed at the right place at the right time and it’s not easy.””
Regarding weekend cover and the night-time economy, Chief Insp. Donaldson believes he has the right amount of officers deployed. One area he wants to explore is the involvement of church groups and street pastors, which he says works well in Derry and Magherafelt.
“Sometimes when people come out of a club and are in the mood for a bit of fighting being confronted by a police officer is like waving the proverbial red rag to a bull. We’ve seen how the pastors can calm people and I’d appeal to the churches here if they would like to help us. I’d love to see that progressing.”
With regards to assaults in the area numbers are down, from 150 for the April-September period last year to 134 for the same period this year, “but it’s still far too many,” he says, adding the district’s clearance rate for assaults is the best in the North.
“One assault is too many because that’s a victim, but I don’t want to paint a picture that if you go out in Limavady on a Saturday night someone will take a swing at you. That’s not the case because the number of people actually committing the assaults is very small and we are focusing on that,” he says.
With regards the dissident threat he says Limavady and the entire community needs to be as vigilant as every other town.
“The reality is there are people who want to hurt me and my colleagues and we have to do everything in our power to stop that and the best way to do that is with the support of the people.”