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‘Restoring confidence’ a priority

TOP COP: New head of police in West Belfast, PSNI Chief Inspector Gary Reid TOP COP: New head of police in West Belfast, PSNI Chief Inspector Gary Reid
By Michael Jackson

THE new head of police in West Belfast has said that restoring community confidence in the PSNI is a priority.

PSNI Chief Inspector Gary Reid, who took the reins at Woodbourne Police Station last month, said that local police teams will also have a particular focus on antisocial behaviour and drugs.

A recent report from local charity, Cooperation Ireland, indicates there is a “general sense of distrust in the PSNI” in West Belfast with the relationship between police and the community “deteriorating”.

Chief Inspector Reid said that while police had “made mistakes” in the recent past, officers were determined to improve “engagement within the community”.

“Part of that confidence is when something is happening, police are taking it seriously, they’re turning up to it, doing a good investigation and actually keeping people updated,” he said.

“In terms of service delivery, I want to look at all the stuff we’re currently doing and how that aligns with what we want to do. Are there things we could be doing a bit more cleverly? Are there things we could be doing with the community?

“We do a lot of collaborative work with the community and it’s about getting out and speaking to people, seeing what their problems are, making sure we have the best delivery of service.”

Asked about the impact of the RUC’s role in West Belfast on current levels of confidence in the PSNI, Chief Inspector Reid said: “I would be telling lies if I said it didn’t impact on our job in some way. The Chief Constable put it out there that particular legacy issues should be taken away from the police to allow us to get on with the policing here and now – that’s what I’m here for today.

“There are other parts of the PSNI who are dealing with legacy issues, but my part is to serve the community here in West Belfast – that’s what I’m about as are the people who are attached to this station.”

The Andersonstown News also asked Chief Inspector Reid about the PSNI’s plans to tackle antisocial behaviour. He said that while antisocial behaviour was down overall, a cohesive approach between the police, statutory agencies and local community representatives was required to deal with persistent problems.

“I think antisocial behaviour in the past – and we’re talking about across the UK and Ireland – police maybe wouldn’t have seen that as a priority, but we’re coming at it from a different angle,” he said.
“Antisocial behaviour is not just the responsibility of police; we’re doing a lot of good work here with the City Council and local politicians and community groups, and I think people are starting to realise that it’s not just about the police arresting people and criminalising people,” he added.

“If there are 200 young people turning up at the Falls Park at night, about 190 of those just kids are looking for somewhere to go, there is maybe a hardcore within that and that’s where the police step in, to reassure the other agencies that police are there to help them tackle that. Certainly, I would like to see us all working together to tackle that.”

With a number of drugs deaths occurring in West Belfast, we asked Chief Inspector Reid about police action on the issue.
“There is a lower rate of seizures in this particular area, but that could be down to people not reporting some of the stuff that’s going on,” he said.

“We want people to come forward to come forward about the drugs issue. I come down the line that we are looking to take robust action around that.

Some of the feedback I have been getting is that information has been coming into us and that we haven’t acted on that, but I can assure you we are acting on it. If you feel that is the case it can always be addressed through the Ombudsman’s Office.”

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