About 5,000 policing hours planned for Belfast St Patrick’s operation
The PSNI’s St Patrick’s week policing operation in Belfast is set to take up around 5,000 hours of policing time.
The operation covers from the Monday just gone through to when the celebrations for St Patrick’s Day itself dies down.
The day falls on a Sunday this year, and police are hopeful of less trouble than in previous years.
The 5,000 hours is not all overtime; it involves resources which would have been spent elsewhere. The cost of 5,000 hours of policing comes to roughly about £100,000.
The Holylands area of south Belfast, populated heavily by students, will be a focal point of policing efforts.
During a particularly chaotic St Patrick’s Day in the area in 2016, police made 11 arrests for disorderly behaviour, assaulting police, and more, while resident Brid Rudd said the area was transformed into a “wasteland of noise, sectarianism, aggression and vomit”.
Asked about the police’s response if things like pro-IRA chanting arise, Superintendent Muir Clark said: “Where behaviour, irrespective of what it may be, falls below an expected norm or breaches a criminal threshold, then yes we will deal with that.
“But I’m certainly not aware of that in previous years, and I certainly haven’t picked up a sectarian element in relation to the Holylands or sectarian problems in there. I mean, it’s a mixed community.”
He added this is the second year he has policed the festivities. His message to students was this: “Be safe, look after your friends, enjoy yourself – but in a way that both respects yourself and the residents.”
Whilst police can shut off-licences down if alcohol bought there is fuelling disorder, this is hard to prove.
However, the PSNI have an agreement this year with off-licences that they will agree to voluntarily close if asked.
Staff members from both the universities, and charities like SOS (which regularly helps inebriated revellers in the city centre) will also have a presence in the area.
As well as having a heavy student population, police estimate there are between 800 to 1,200 Roma people living in the Holylands.