Minister in policing call after yet another church attack

Image of window smashed with metal bar at Ballyclare Free Presbyterian Church
Image of window smashed with metal bar at Ballyclare Free Presbyterian Church
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A minister has said there is a perception that anti-social behaviour is on the rise in Co Antrim town as he spoke out over the latest act of vandalism against his church.

Rev Noel Hughes of Ballyclare Free Presbyterian Church told the News Letter that some time between Friday and Saturday one of his church windows was smashed with an iron bar.

He said it is the third such window-smashing incident in about a year, and it was discovered when people arrived at the church on Saturday to repair one of the building’s doors – which had been damaged in a separate case of vandalism.

He noted the town police station closed in recent years.

He said that, anecdotally, “there is a rising tide of opinion” that such behaviour is becoming more of a problem, and he would like to know if this popular perception is bourne out by official police statistics.

“That’s why I’m asking this question – if they take this policy to remove the police stations, to remove or at least scale down on previous community involvement, is that detrimental, does it lead to a situation where the community is left more vulnerable?” he said.

“If so, does the policy need to be revised and reviewed?”

A News Letter investigation in spring 2018 found two-thirds of PSNI stations had been shut in the past 20 years (CLICK HERE FOR THAT STORY, INCLUDING MAPS).

The PSNI said it was aware of the incident at the church, and “enquiries are continuing”.

They said: “Police continue to provide a strong, visible presence to the community of Ballyclare to keep those who live and work in the area safe.

“Officers engage with a variety of key partner agencies and stakeholders and welcome the opportunity to speak with members of the community around policing.”