An international crime gang operating openly on the streets of North Belfast are dealing drugs, running prostitutes and brandishing weapons while, according to local residents, the PSNI do nothing to crack down on their activities.
Desperate householders who approached Daily Belfast this week say they have witnessed men associated with the gang openly brandishing firearms as they sell drugs to users who are flocking to the area. A leading community worker also told us how the issue had been raised at multi-agency meetings yet the activity was continuing unabated.
The men – foreign nationals according to the residents we spoke to – were formerly based around the traffic island on Atlantic Avenue with the drugs stashed in a property in nearby Allworthy Avenue. But now they’ve moved further down the Antrim Road and are carrying out their illegal trade in the streets around Oceanic Avenue.
A mother-of-three who lives on Atlantic Avenue said she and her neighbours have passed information on to the PSNI but no action had been taken.
“It’s 24 hours a day,” she said. “They stand on the street corners and when someone comes to buy drugs one of them takes the money and runs across the Antrim Road where they have their stash and brings the drugs back.
“There is also a brothel in the area where the women are dropped off every morning and then picked up again at the end of the day. People are afraid because there is nothing being done about it. They are doing it openly on the streets and have been for weeks but no-one can stop them.”
Another woman who lives near the alleged brothel says she passes the prostitutes on her way to work.
“You see them getting out of big flash cars in the morning and going into the house. Then at the end of the night the same cars come and pick them up again. I have no idea who these women are because they are not from Newington. It’s horrifying to think what’s going on around here.”
Community worker Kate Clarke said she has reported a number of incidents to the PSNI but frustration is growing at the lack of action.
“It started eight weeks ago when a resident was walking around to the shop and saw two men standing at the corner of Ponsonby Avenue and Atlantic Avenue. One man had a handgun and he was showing the second one how to use it. There is frustration that no houses are being raided because I personally have reported all these incidents in meetings with the PSNI.”
We asked the PSNI about the allegations but Chief Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick declined to comment specifically.
“Based on information provided by the community local police have increased patrols and activity across North Belfast to keep people safe.
“Sometimes, due to the ongoing nature of investigations and operations looking at specific issues, we are not in a position to discuss or highlight progress but when arrests are made we announce details on our various social media platforms and also issue information to local media outlets. Recent examples include arrests for offensive weapons and drugs offences.
“While overall the crime figures for North Belfast are currently on a downward trend, we are grateful to the local community for their continued support and I would once again appeal for anyone concerned about crime in their area to contact their local police on the non-emergency number 101 so we can work together to do something about it.”
Kate Clarke dismissed the PSNI comments, saying: “We’ve been told investigations are ongoing but we can’t see anything being done.”