‘Relations between community and police in Londonderry have deteriorated’

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Relationships between the community and police in parts of Londonderry have “deteriorated considerably” in recent years, a report has said.

A lack of confidence in policing and the criminal justice system has translated into historically low levels of reporting and a discernible increase in hostile attitudes towards the PSNI in areas like the Brandywell and Creggan, according to the report involving Stormont’s Executive Office.

However, the numbers committed to political violence have diminished, with several groups and individuals engaged in community dialogue, the Building Capacity in Communities in Transition review showed.

It added: “However, the problem of criminal elements operating on the fringes of paramilitary republican groups remains.

“Relationships between the community and PSNI are said to have deteriorated considerably in recent years.

“A lack of confidence in policing and the criminal justice system has translated into historically low levels of reporting and a discernible increase in hostile attitudes towards the PSNI.”

Common criticisms related to the “sporadic” nature of police involvement in communities, the turnover and withdrawal of knowledgeable and experienced police teams and the perception that they do not appear to act on or respond to information provided by the community.

Resource constraints and security concerns also appear to be a factor in explaining changes to neighbourhood policing in recent years, the report added.

“It is clear that the detention of senior republican figures coupled with the use and alleged abuse of stop-and-search powers are huge, burning issues in Derry, generating sympathy for traditional republican views and hostility towards the police.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he was disappointed and frustrated.

“It has been 20 years since our society said ‘yes’ to peace, yet paramilitaries still lean heavily on the backs of communities,” he said.

“Likewise, the statistics which indicate the high suicide and employment deprivation rates in the area illustrate just how many people have been left behind.”