Chief Inspector Jon Burrows makes no bones about his top priority of cutting crime on resuming his role as Derry’s acting police chief.
After two days back in the role, the interim Area Commander for Foyle said he aims to cut general crime rates in the city which have risen by around 4% in the last year. However, he outlined a particular plan to zone in on reducing violent crime, burglary, drug dealing and use, and anti-social behaviour.
“There will be significant work done around all four of these areas,” he pledged, adding that his targets involve not only solving crimes and bringing criminals to justice but preventing offences from taking place.
CI Burrows says he and his officers “are told consistently by the public” that these are the main issues affecting them through the annual district policing plan and word of mouth on a day to day basis. CI Burrows said there are clear strategies in place to deal with all four of his priority issues.
Top of the agenda for the new police chief is battling violent crime in the city, particularly during hours of darkness in the city centre at weekends.
“There is going to be a crackdown on violent crime and I’m going to be conducting a review into unsolved serious assaults. To help prevent violent crime, neighbourhood policing teams will have their shift patterns alternated in order to provide an increased presence in the city every weekend. He said he will ensure that officers take a “firm but fair” approach to promptly deal with city centre disorder.
“We will also be working closely with licensees to ensure strict ID checks are carried out and to ensure glass bottles do not leave bars, as that practice has led to people getting glassed in assaults in the city centre.”
He pledged that further action will be taken to ensure offenders are kept out of the city centre at night, through “bail restrictions” handed down by the courts at the request of police. “I don’t think it is acceptable that someone can commit a violent crime in the city centre on a Saturday night and then return the following Saturday,” he said.
CI Burrows also pledged that when serious assaults do occur, his officers will “investigate with increased energy” to bring the offenders to justice. He said additional resources will be deployed when necessary to “make sure people are safe”.
To combat rising burglary rates in the city, CI Burrows will shortly be launching a Derry publicity campaign, jointly compiled by the PSNI and the Crimestoppers charity. “The campaign will highlight the top five tips on burglary prevention and appeal to the public to assist in bringing burglars to justice. Burglary, particularly house burglary, is very traumatic. It causes sleepless nights, causes children to wet the bed - it is obscene.” He warned known burglars that they can expect to be subjected to “stringent bail checks”.
Tackling Derry’s drugs scourge will be a “big priority” following the sharp increase in seizures experienced in Derry under the command of former police chief, CI Garry Eaton. CI Burrows said. “We are very keen to continue to demonstrate that police can deal with drugs and drug dealers effectively.” He said he is very keen as confidence in the PSNI “continues to build” that members of the public do everything they can to help the police in their battle against illegal drugs supply.
Anti-social behaviour is one of the most prevalent issues concerning Derry’s public. In terms of tackling the issue, CI Burrows said “three key” actions in mind. “Firstly we are undertaking a fresh analysis of the main problem areas and then we’ll deploy increased numbers of foot patrols to those areas. We’ll also be tackling underage drinking, which has two elements: breach of bye-laws and underage drinking. We also want to make inroads against urination in the streets - we will be prosecuting people standing in the street.”