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The Crime Department is the largest department within the Police Service of Northern Ireland, comprising specialist officers and staff. Headed by Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan, the team are responsible for investigating a range of offences across the crime spectrum to keep people safe.

The team work tirelessly to reduce the harm caused by organised crime gangs, violent extremists and bring to justice those who have committed serious offences in the past.

Officers are very much victim-focused and ensure that through effective collaborative relationships with other statutory and voluntary organisations we can prevent sexual offending and protect local communities.

Officers use their specialist training and technology to proactively and reactively investigate the most serious and determined criminals that threaten our safety and security, bringing them to justice and stripping them of their criminal assets.

The Crime Department comprises various specialist areas.

Officers performing a training exercise
Officers performing a training exercise

Organised Crime Branch

Organised Crime Branch consists of investigation teams based throughout Northern Ireland who investigate a vast spectrum of offences, both in response to crimes and also proactively. These include drugs, firearms, violent crimes, financial crime, serious assaults, attempted murders and robberies. 

Officers aim to keep people safe by preventing harm to both individuals and communities, by increasing the capacity and resilience of neighbourhoods vulnerable to criminality, by reducing re-offending and by preventing crime. They work with partners to detect offenders and strive to protect the most vulnerable by frustrating, disrupting and dismantling groups involved in criminal activity

Cannabis factory seized by police
Cannabis factory seized by police

Serious Crime Branch

Serious Crime Branch responds to, resources, conducts and completes structured and professional investigations into homicide, kidnap incidents, terrorist-related offences, intelligence-led operations and other serious crime incidents. 

They keep people safe by investigating the most serious crimes, major incidents and providing major crime forensic advice ensuring that every opportunity to identify and locate criminals is taken. The branch has detectives specialising in investigating Cybercrime, Terrorism and is dedicated to protecting some of the most vulnerable in society by targeting human trafficking, bringing the offenders to justice and ensuring the welfare of their victims.

Serious Crime Branch also holds responsibility for the deployment of Family Liaison Officers (FLOs) who provide initial and ongoing support and assistance to families bereaved by crime or road-related deaths. Our specialist Hostage and Crisis Negotiators are available 24 hours a day and respond to all incidents in which someone is threatening to harm themselves or others. Officers within the branch work extremely hard to keep people safe across Northern Ireland and bring those who inflict pain, disruption and misery to justice.

Drugs seized by police
Drugs seized by police

Intelligence Branch

The Intelligence branch is an integral part of the Crime Department and underpins many investigations that the Police Service conduct. Intelligence is information, which is collected, assessed and disseminated to inform the policing response to keep people safe. Information provided through the Intelligence Branch helps identify potential risk, threat and harm to our communities and can influence resource deployment and the design of our operational response. This helps enable our colleagues to do their jobs effectively and safely and works towards achieving our policing purpose of keeping people safe.

Intelligence has formed part of many police operations against Child Sexual Exploitation, cyber enabled crime, Human Trafficking, drugs, robbery, paramilitary activity and threats to public safety. Officers assist colleagues across the organisation with specialist knowledge and advice, enabling a professional and efficient response to all types of criminal activity.


Cannabis factory seized by police
Cannabis factory seized by police

Specialist Operations Branch

Specialist Operations Branch (SOB) keep people safe by providing the Police Service with specialist command and assistance in complex investigations involving serious crime, organised crime, volume crime and matters affecting National Security. The branch also provides specialist skills, support and knowledge to the organisation and partners.

Public Protection Branch

What We Do

Public Protection Branch (PPB) went live on April 2015, amalgamating District Public Protection Units with Rape Crime, Child Internet Protection team and the HQ Public Protection Team. PPB now sits with the Crime Department and is responsible for operational activity, partnership working and policy and practices across some the most emotive, complex and challenging area of policing.


Teams and Locations

Public Protection Branch (PPB) teams are now aligned with the Health and Social Care Trusts as opposed to the Police and council boundaries. This allows for a closer working relationship with social service teams as well as our other statutory and non-statutory partners.

PPB is based in Antrim Road, along with Central Referral Unit (CRU), Child Internet Protection Team (CIPT) and Belfast Trust. The Western Trust are based in Omagh and Strand Road, Southern Trust in Mahon Road, South Eastern Trust in Newtownards and Northern Trust in Ballymena. The Historical Child Abuse Team are based in Antrim Road and Omagh.

The Rape Crime Units are based in three locations, Strandtown, Mahon Road and Ballymoney. The Public Protection Team (PPT), Visor Management Unit (VMU) and the Public Protection Arrangements (PPANI) Links are based in Seapark Police Station.

Public Protection Branch is made up of the following:

  • Child Abuse Investigation Unit (CAIU) and Historical Child Abuse Team (HCAT)
  • Domestic Abuse (DA)
  • Adult Safeguarding (AS)
  • Offender Investigation Units (OIU)
  • Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)
  • Multi-Agency Public Protection Team
  • PPANI Links
  • Child Internet Protection Team (CIPT) and Child Abuse Image Database (CAID)
  • Rape Crime Unit (RCU)
  • Central Referral Unit (CRU)

Crime Support Branch

The Crime Support Branch assists in building a safe, confident and peaceful Northern Ireland by supporting the Crime Department in its investigations, intelligence gathering and operational deployments.

Officers provide expertise and assistance in areas including Compliance, Analysis, Operational Security and Information Management. They also coordinate on Cross-Departmental issues such as planning, performance, risk and resource management and training.

Air Support Unit

The Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Air Support Unit assists front line officers throughout Northern Ireland with crime investigations, anti-crime operations, traffic management, search and rescue, public order situations, crime reduction initiatives and tackling terrorism.

The Air Support Unit was first formed in 1992 and is granted a Police Air Operators Certificate by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

The unit has three helicopters, a Eurocopter EC135, delivered in 2005 and two Eurocopter EC145’s, which were put into service in July 2010 and August 2013.

The EC145’s, call signs “Police 45 and Police 46” have state-of-the-art camera and computer equipment with an air speed of 150mph. They are deployed alongside the existing Police Service of Northern Ireland helicopter call sign “Police 44”.

Police 44 Helicopter

The Crime Department manages the Air Support Unit and the deployment of the aircrafts for Districts and specialist operations. Working with all colleagues, the unit deploy daily to meet their needs to keep people safe within all communities in Northern Ireland. In addition to this, the Air Support Unit works regularly in partnership with the Coastguard, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, Northern Ireland Fire Service and other volunteer search and rescue organisations.