Cops remain tight-lipped on frequency of patrols in park

By Scott Jamison

Police continue to refuse to reveal the amount of patrols that take place in Ormeau Park, despite a local District Policing Partnership (DPP) meeting disclosing the PSNI have been called to 18 incidents there since the start of the year.

The information on the patrols was first requested by political blogger John Collins at a South Belfast DPP meeting in June following a serious sexual assault on a woman in the park on May 10.

However, cops refused to divulge the information, saying the number and frequency of patrols could not be released for “operational reasons”. But a freedom of information (FOI) request on the topic subsequently submitted by Mr Collins has now also been rejected.

“I only asked for the number of police patrols in the park. At no point did I mention times or details of specific operations, nor would I expect to receive them,” he said.

“But their response says my question fails their ‘harm test’ and could be used by criminal elements operating within the park, which is a ridiculous thing to think.”

In the official response by the PSNI’s FOI team, a spokesperson states due to the “increased threat of terrorism,” releasing the number of patrols “would not be in the public interest”.

“Patrols are currently ongoing in this location. Park opening times and the working hours of the park rangers, who work jointly with police officers, dictate the times of the patrols and some patrols routinely take place at specific times.

“Therefore, disclosure of this information could identify the routine of patrols and has the potential to assist those criminal elements seeking to carry out attacks against police officers.”

John, who edits the Politics NI blog, said the response showed the “lack of thought” by the police in addressing the issue.

“Not that I asked for the times, but what they have sent me says park opening times dictate the times of the patrols. So if I was a criminal element looking to attack the police, I could turn up at opening or closing times and there would be a patrol.

“My fear is there are no patrols in the park, or at least very little, and that is why the police are being so reluctant in revealing this information to me.”

The news comes as last week’s East Belfast DPP meeting, which covers the Ormeau Park area, revealed 18 incidents had taken place there from the first of January 2011 until September 27, including the sexual assault and an assault on a 15-year-old boy by a group of men on August 21.

John said the statistics showed it was “vital” police revealed the number of patrols that took place in the park.

“Knowing these incidents happen without knowing how often police come through the park doesn’t fill me with confidence and I’m sure I’m not the only one debating whether to use the park or not due to it.

“If the police would come out and tell us how many patrols happen, that would remove much of that fear.”

A police spokesperson said no further information could be given about the patrols in Ormeau Park due to operational reasons.

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