A local councillor is urging the public to “let the PSNI police the community” after extensive grafitti appeared throughout Larne and Glenarm.
UUP Councillor and Chair of Mid and East Antrim PCSP Andrew Wilson spoke out after the appearance of several signs bearing the words “House Breakers” alongside a symbol of a circle containing a cross.
Two such slogans were scrawled across Larne’s Laharna building at Riverdale, while another appeared on the boarded-up doors of the former Poundstretchers store in Lower Cross Street and a third was spotted on a wall in Fleet Street.
There were also reports of a slogan in Boyne Square, Linn Road and Antiville.
Meanwhile, two similar slogans were spotted in the neighbouring village of Glenarm.
PSCP Chair Mr Wilson condemned the graffiti, which he said appeared to be “a form of vigilantism.”
“I have to condemn that and if anyone is aware of crimes or burglaries in the area they should go to the police or Crimestoppers,” he stated.
“The PSNI police the community and anybody that has any information that can help regarding crimes needs to go to the police.
“It’s the only way we can get these crimes resolved and get the people brought before the courts and convicted.”
Responding to social media comments that the graffiti was a reaction to the police’s perceived failure to deal with a spate of burglaries against the elderly, Mr Wilson replied: “With the resources that the police have they are working to the best of their capability.
“I had a recent meeting with the Justice Minister and made it clear that the PCSP would like to see more resources directed to the PSNI, more foot patrols and a presence on the ground to deal with criminals.”
Acknowledging that there were “historical issues of confidence in the police in East Antrim,” Mr Wilson said that the PCSP would be “fighting for more resources” in the local area.
He added that Mid and East Antrim Agewell Partnership (MEAAP) offers services to enhance elderly residents’ home security.
“There are a number of schemes, for example MEAAP work with members of the community and provide them with equipment to feel safer at home.
“We also have a Good Morning Larne scheme to make people feel safer.”
East Antrim UUP MLA Roy Beggs also urged people not to “take the law into their own hands.”
“There is a high risk that innocent individuals could get caught up in this,” he stated.
“So-called punishment beatings or shootings can be life-changing and have high costs to our already burdened National Health Service.
“For that reason I would say we have to rely on the police and the justice system.
“The police can only search or arrest people for questioning if they have the information.”
Responding to allegations that the slogans had been painted by paramilitaries, Mr Beggs added: “Sometimes paramilitaries themselves have been involved in criminality including burglaries by taking cuts.
“It would be wrong to do anything which would give a place to paramilitaries in terms of law and order.
“At the same time we will have to deal with other sorts of issues as a result of paramilitary activity.
“I would urge people to rely on the police and justice system,” he concluded.
A Housing Executive spokesperson said that the graffiti on the Laharna building would be removed today (Thursday).
PSNI Superintendent Ryan Henderson said: “Tackling burglary is a top priority for us as we know the impact it has on victims, particularly the elderly.
“Whenever we see any trends in an area we look to react to it quickly and decisively.
“In recent weeks police in Larne have put in place an operation which combined additional police patrolling with reactive and organised crime support.
“This resulted in a number of arrests and charges and the recovery of stolen property. A high profile social media campaign was also launched.
“I send out a clear message that if you commit a burglary, you will be robustly pursued.
“We have also received a number of reports of graffiti in the Larne area. At this stage the origin of this graffiti is unknown. We are aware of rumours of paramilitary involvement in the graffiti and this will form one line of enquiry.”