§ Rev. Martin Smyth
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps are being taken to combat robberies in(a) Fountain Lane and (b) other areas of Belfast city centre. 333W
§ Jane Kennedy
Crime in Belfast city centre, including Fountain Lane, has reduced over the last year. Incidents such as till snatches, and street thefts involving handbag and mobile phone snatches have been reduced by over 60 per cent. in the first three months of 2003 when compared with the same period in 2002.
The PSNI have identified crime "hotspot" locations and police resources are deployed accordingly. Since June 2002 a team of officers have been tasked with focusing on street gangs operating in the city centre. To date these officers have made 201 arrests for a variety of offences.
CCTV is of considerable assistance to police in the city centre in preventing and detecting crime and CCTV operators have been instrumental in initiating some 149 arrests this year to date for offences ranging from attempted murder to robbery, theft and disorder.
Community Beat Officers in the city centre continue to work in partnership with Belfast city centre management, Belfast Chamber of Trade and other partners to address community safety issues within the city centre. Police officers have met with traders, including those from Fountain Lane, and discussed their concerns with them. Traders in the city centre provided funding for two pedal cycles which are used regularly by officers in the city centre.
It is anticipated that it will be possible to increase the number of Community Beat Officers in the city centre as new recruits arrive in the District Command Unit.