Chief Constable's accountability report to the Northern Ireland Policing Board

At the accountability meeting at the Northern Ireland Policing Board, Chief Constable Simon Byrne announced the outcome of the Student officer recruitment campaign for 2021.

Over the course of the three week campaign during November, a total of 5,311 people applied to begin a career in policing.

The Chief Constable said: “The level of applications this year is encouraging. It demonstrates that policing is a career of choice in Northern Ireland.

“We are planning to recruit 400 additional police officers in the coming year. This is necessary to maintain officer numbers at 7,100. This is dependent on securing sufficient funding in the new Budget. Without this, planned recruitment throughout the year will not be possible and police officer numbers will fall.

“The impact will be felt on service delivery, resilience and modernisation.”

Keeping communities safe over Christmas - Op Season’s Greetings

The Chief Constable also provided an update to Board members on the launch of the Police Service’s annual flagship “Op Season’s Greetings” campaign.

Policing Board members were briefed on the various aspects of the campaign which focuses on the widespread dissemination of important public safety and crime prevention messages specific to the festive period.

Through the initiative, dedicated operational resources will be deployed across all districts in Northern Ireland to deter and detect criminality and provide visible reassurance to the public.

Simon Byrne said: “As part of our Op Season’s Greetings campaign, we will be increasing our presence in nightlife areas and working collaboratively with the hospitality industry to provide reassurance that people can enjoy this time of the year with their friends and family safely. We are also working with partners on a range of joint initiatives and campaigns to ensure we reach as many people as possible with key public safety messages including dealing with the new COVID-19 restrictions.

“Christmas is also a time of year when we sadly see an increase in domestic abuse incidents. Our officers will take active steps to support victims of domestic abuse and I want them to know that we are here for them.”

Tackling serious and organised crime

The Chief Constable also provided an update on major progress in tackling serious and organised crime over the last quarter. During this period, the activities of nearly 80 criminal gangs were significantly disrupted by Police, with one gang totally dismantled. The Paramilitary Crime Task Force (PCTF) conducted 41 searches which included 14 drug seizures. In addition, through the PCTF 15 arrests were made and 20 people were charged.

As a result of Operation DEALBREAKER, there were 55 arrests for drug-related offences and 317 drug seizures, amounting to a collective street value of £1,348,418.95 by November. This week, Police seized a further £1m worth of suspected cannabis in Larne and uncovered a cannabis factory in Co. Armagh.

Mr Byrne said: “Working closely with local communities and partners, we have made real and significant progress in the last few months in tackling serious and organised crime which is a blight that impacts all communities across Northern Ireland. I would appeal to anyone who has information that can assist with our work to contact Police on 101 or report online.”

Male violence and intimidation against women and girls and drink spiking

The Chief Constable outlined details of the Police Service’s response to increased incidents of spiking, including increased visibility in hotspot areas, a range of new initiatives with night time economy partners and the distribution of new guidance to Neighbourhood Policing Teams.

The Chief Constable said: “We have taken a number of immediate steps to urgently address the reported rise of spiking incidents. New guidance has been issued to first responders to ensure officers are responding quickly and effectively, and we are working closely with the hospitality industry to identify opportunities to collaborate on a range of awareness, prevention and early intervention initiatives.”

Simon Byrne also provided a further update on the Service’s progress in developing a Male Violence and Intimidation against Women and Girls Strategy.

Simon Byrne said: “Over the last few months, we have been engaging extensively with a wide range of women and girls advocacy groups and service providers to hear their views on the role policing needs to play in ending male violence against women and girls. Our Strategy, which we will publish early next year, will focus on prevention, early intervention and enhanced support for victims.”